The Broken Hearthbroken Cello


Barbara Handshy Anderson

 

 

 

Then while we live, in love let’s so persevere,

That when we live no more, we may live forever.

Ann Bradstreet (1612-1672)
 

 


 

 

- This story takes place not long after the episodes “A Happy Life” and “Chamber Music”

- Except for Sebastian Klotz the characters and events in the story are fictional.

- If you click on the youtube links in the story, you can listen to the referenced cello music as you read.
 

 

 

 

It was Thursday and Vincent was waiting at her threshold. Their plan was to meet at seven and take a leisurely stroll to their special place under the Naumburg Bandshell in Central Park to enjoy a concert. They were playing the Brandenburg Concertos tonight, but Catherine was late.

As he waited for her he pondered the current state of their relationship. It had been a few months since the night he had sent her away, since the night he had told her that their dream had to end, since the night he had shut her out and walked away from her in her hour of need.

Within the first hour of that meeting he had become acutely aware of the colossal mistake he had made by ending their relationship. The hours, the day, that followed had been filled with self-recriminations, dark thoughts and a heavy heart. Perhaps all she had needed at that moment was to be held. His attempt to alleviate her pain, as well as his own had failed miserably. Ending their dream had only caused them both more pain.

As it turned out the dream hadn’t ended. They had only been apart for a little more than twenty-four hours (it was actually more like 32 hours and 27 minutes, but who was counting?) when she had come running back into his arms and he had welcomed her. He had held his arms opened wide waiting to receive her, the very same arms that had so recently rejected her.

She had asked him to forgive her… Forgive her for what? he still wondered. She wasn’t the one that had done anything wrong. She was the one who had held tightly to their dream… even though it was causing her pain… even when he was trying to let it go… to let her go. She was the one who had came running back to him. He wasn’t sure if she realized that she was the strong one… most of the time anyway. When she feared that her strength would fail her she had come to him for strength and then it was he who had failed her.                                                                      

“Wait… Wait!”

He could still hear her calling out to him as he shut the portal between them and left her standing there alone in the dark. He felt her aching heart calling out to him as he walked away and buried himself deeper and deeper into the tunnels and further away from her. He felt her aloneness as she returned to her apartment. He felt her as she traveled farther and farther away from the city…each mile… each minute… taking her further and further away from him.

The memory of that night was still painful to him.

It’s for her own good, he had told himself. It will be better this way. We will both be better off in the end. It was only a dream… an impossible dream that can never be. She would have realized that eventually and left anyway… He had told himself these things over and over. But he thought it strange that his inner voice didn’t sound like his… instead it sounded oddly like… Father’s.

So many things had happened to Catherine in the last year… painful things, frightening things, life altering things. For some reason the memories of her mother’s death and the cumulative pain of it all had come crashing down on her all at once and it had become too difficult for her to bear alone. It had made even her love for Vincent feel like a hopeless impossibility.

The intensity of her pain had frightened him and he had flinched. Instead of holding her and reassuring her, he shrank from her. Instead of comforting her he turned and walked away. He left her standing alone in the dark with her pain, when time and time again, she had so bravely and selflessly helped him to face his…. How many times in the last year has she conquered her own fears, set aside her own pain, sacrificed her own dreams in order to rescue you? the inner voice chided.

On the surface things seemed to have returned to normal in the months since she had returned, at least normal for them, but something felt different to Vincent. His connection with her seemed more distant, more tenuous. At times her feelings were not as easy to discern as they had been before. Is this my way of protecting myself against the inevitable day when she will finally leave for good? he asked himself. After all, haven’t they all?  My mother, Devin, Lisa… all except for Father. Or is this change in our bond because Catherine is being more careful to guard her own emotions? Have I lost her trust? he wondered.                                     

“Vincent, your secret is safe with me. I would never betray your trust,” she had said the first time he brought her to this threshold. He couldn’t even look at her then.

“I know,” he replied. “I knew that from the beginning… when you trusted me.”

When she had come so close and embraced him, he was afraid to breathe and ever so timidly put his arm around her. Even then he still couldn’t bring himself to look into her eyes. He was afraid she would see his heart… afraid she would see his soul… afraid he wouldn’t be able to let her go. He was afraid he would see a fear of him in her eyes.             

That’s right, she trusted you, his inner voice accused. Even when she didn’t know what to believe… she believed in you… she trusted you… Even after she saw what you looked like… what you are… even after she witnessed what you are capable of… she trusted you and you turned her away in her time of need.

Vincent had had this conversation with himself every day since Catherine had come back to him, but he hadn’t had the courage to have it with her. He hadn’t had the courage to ask her to forgive him. Not because he was afraid that she wouldn’t. He knew she had already done that. He could tell by the way she had laughed and danced in the rain the other night in the music chamber… the way she had thrown herself laughing into his arms. No… he hadn’t asked for her forgiveness because he didn’t feel he deserved it… or her trust. He hadn’t forgiven himself.

Lost in these thoughts, Vincent was unaware of her approach until she was nearly there.

“I’m sorry I’m late, Vincent,” she said, smiling apologetically. “The case I am working on is really…” She paused, a little out of breath.

“It’s all right, Catherine… you aren’t too late,” he insisted. She looks beautiful, as usual, he thought.

“But the concert will be over by the time we get there.”

“Trust me Catherine, you aren’t too late. Come with me… that is if you aren’t too tired?

“Of course not… but I don’t understand…”

“Trust me, Catherine,” he whispered. There is that word again, trust, he thought. Why should she trust you?

He took her hand and they walked quickly to their spot under the Naumberg Bandshell.

They could hear the last notes of the Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 6 as they entered the chamber.

She looked crestfallen. “Oh, Vincent,” she sighed. “… I’m sorry. We’ve missed it. It’s all my fault.”

Vincent reached out to her. “Catherine, please… don’t worry about it. You cannot control everything that happens in your job. I understand that. If we are lucky we haven’t missed everything… I hope… Please, come join me here.”

They sat down under the grate just as they had before. They listened as the crowd dispersed. The sounds of people chatting and laughing as they walked away filtered down to them. Slowly it gave way to the lonely sound of people folding up and stacking metal chairs and musicians putting away their instruments. Park workers were hollering instructions to each other and musicians were saying their goodbyes. Then finally the stage lights went off.

The small vestibule that Vincent and Catherine occupied became eerily silent and the only light they had to see by was the moonlight that streamed in through the grate.

As much as Catherine loved sitting there with Vincent’s arm around her, she was intrigued. “Vincent? What are we -?”

Vincent put his finger to his lips and said, “Shhh” Looking up to the grate he whispered so softly that she could hardly hear. “One night after enjoying a concert here, I was sitting here just like this, enveloped in the silence. I was just about to leave when I discovered something.”

Just then they heard it… the scraping of something on the stage of the bandshell, the soft clicking as a latch was opened and echoed in the stillness. Followed by the sound of someone checking the strings of an instrument.

Catherine tilted her head to one side. “What?”

“Shhh… he’s here… he came.”

Her eyes asked, Who? but she didn’t speak, and then it began.

(Listen as you read … Sad Cello Solo https://youtu.be/u0KQqOai-uA)

Her eyes widened as the lonely music echoed in the darkness. Vincent closed his eyes and leaned his head back against the tunnel wall. Catherine lay her head against his chest and closed her eyes.

As the music went on, Vincent and Catherine let it carry them along and each became lost in it and lost in each other. Catherine felt as if her heart was breaking and at the same time its haunting beauty took her breath away. She unconsciously tightened her embrace as the music slowly extracted the deepest pain in her heart. Vincent’s hold on her tightened as well.

The heart wrenching music went on for about thirty minutes. In that time neither Vincent nor Catherine spoke. They barely moved. If anyone had seen them they might have mistakenly thought they were asleep. But a closer look would have revealed that Catherine’s face was wet with unfettered tears and Vincent was so overcome by the music and Catherine’s raw emotion that he could barely breathe.

When the music ended they didn’t move or speak. They heard the faint sounds of movement as the musician lovingly stowed his instrument in its case. At the distant click of the latch they heard, “Okay, Isabella, it’s time to go.”

Catherine looked up in surprise. “Isabella?” she whispered.

Vincent smiled, “I believe Isabella is his cello,” he whispered as he reached up and wiped the tears from her cheek. “You’re trembling, Catherine, are you cold?” He moved to pull his cloak more tightly around her.

Catherine laughed softly and shook her head, “No, Vincent, I’m not cold. I’m actually quite warm.”

He looked at her quizzically, but she said nothing more. She was afraid too.

She was afraid that if she explained to him the source of her trembling it would only frighten him. She couldn’t tell him that his soul never felt more open to her than when they shared this place. That of all the men she had ever known, not one of them had ever, even in their most intimate moments, opened their souls so fully to her or made themselves as vulnerable to her as Vincent did as they shared the music of this place. Catherine knew it was possible that she and Vincent might never share a physically intimate relationship, but she was sure she would never feel as close to another human being as she did to Vincent in these unbelievably unguarded moments. She was afraid that if she explained it to him he would distance himself from her and she would lose this one intimacy they did share. She was afraid she would lose him. The truth, though, was there in her eyes, she couldn’t bring herself to hide that from him.

But how could Vincent even begin to recognize what her eyes were telling him? Though he could feel her intense emotions, he couldn’t always interpret them precisely, and he couldn’t read her mind. In all his thirty-five years he had never seen or heard what he saw written in Catherine’s eyes from any other woman. Even in his wildest imagination he never dreamed that anyone could or would love him as utterly, as completely, as she did. So when he saw it so clearly written in her eyes, he didn’t fully comprehend it.

“Hey, old man! I think you showed up too late for the concert. Everybody’s gone,” came a mocking voice in the dark.

In an instant a fierce tension filled the chamber and Vincent was on his feet. Catherine quickly followed. Both of them could keenly sense the threat as they stood looking up at the grate above their heads.

“Maybe he plays so bad they only let him play when the park is empty,” came a second voice.

Laughter followed.

Vincent tightened his protective embrace of Catherine.

“How many do you think there are?” she whispered.

Vincent only shook his head to indicate that he didn’t know. All of his senses were engaged in trying to assess the situation.

“What you got there, Mister? Is that a cello?” The taunting continued.

“Hey, Man, I don’t want any trouble,” the cellist said.

They could hear mocking laughter. “Did you hear that, guys, he don’t want any trouble.”

“Hey, do we look like trouble to you, Mister? I think I’m offended.”

“Hey, Man, I’m sorry. I don’t want to bother anybody. Please, just let me pass.”

“Hey guys … How do you know the when a cellist is playing out of tune?” There was a short pause. “The bow is moving.”

It wasn’t funny, but the young man’s companions laughed like it was the funniest joke they had ever heard. They are all clearly drunk or high on something, Catherine surmised. That means they could be even more dangerous than they would be otherwise.

“Hey, I got one… What’s the difference between a violin and a cello? … A cello burns longer.”

Again the joke was followed by hysterical laughter that was out of proportion to the humor of the joke.

“Hey, Man, where ya goin? You don’t think it’s funny?”

“I don’t want any trouble… please let me go,” the cellist pleaded.

But the merciless mocking continued. “You hear that guys? He wants to go… he isn’t having any fun.

“I’m having fun, Man,” another mocking voice said.

Catherine could feel Vincent’s agitation rising. She tightened her grip on his vest as he moved toward the ladder that led to the grate just above them.

He turned to her and reached to remove her hands. “Catherine, he needs help.”

“Vincent,” she pleaded. “If you go up this way they will see… where you came from. They will know to look for you down here.”

Vincent let out a frustrated sigh and nodded. “Yes.” He knew she was right. By exposing himself this way he would not only endanger himself, but others who depend upon the tunnels for safety. Then in frustration he asked, “Catherine, is there nothing we can do to help this man?”

“You don’t know how many there are. They could have weapons. Maybe they will get tired of him and leave.” Even as she said it she doubted her own words.

“Please, I just want to leave. I don’t want any trouble,” the cellist begged.

They must have been pushing him, because the laughing increased and Catherine and Vincent heard the sickening thud of the cello case hitting the ground.

Catherine had a vice grip on Vincent as he struggled against her and his urge to fly to the poor man’s aid. She could feel angry growls rising in him and she wasn’t sure how much longer she could hold him back.

“Isabella!” the cellist cried.

“Isabella? Isabella? Isabella?” the mocked in unison.

“Don’t touch her! Please… please give her back,” he begged.

“Hey man … Does anyone know the range of a cello[1]?” No one seemed to answer, and then the speaker continued, “It’s as far as you can kick it, Man!” His answer was followed by more laughter, a sickening thud, and then the sound of the cello case hitting the ground and bouncing a little before popping open. Then came the sound of the strings vibrating as the cello fell out of its case.

“Isabella, Isabella,” the cellist whimpered.

“Hey, let me try,” one of the other said in delight.

Catherine heard the simultaneous sounds of the cellist screaming, “NOOOOOOOOOO!!!” and the nauseating sound of wood cracking.

Catherine was unaware of the tears streaming down her cheeks.

Vincent couldn’t stand it any longer. He let out a mighty roar that echoed and reverberated in the small chamber. He lunged toward the ladder, but Catherine refused to let go of him.

“Vincent… Vincent, you can’t,” she implored.

He looked at her and then up to the grate and roared again. His roars echoed in the bandshell magnifying the sound and making it impossible to tell where it was coming from.

Everything above them went silent.

“WHAT WAS THAT, MAN??!?!”

 “I’m not sticking around to find out, Man! I’m out of here.”

Vincent wrenched himself free of Catherine and tore out of the chamber leaving her standing alone in the dark.

As silence fell once more around the chamber, she could hear him, the cellist, softly weeping. “Isabella? Oh, Isabella,” he groaned. “I’m sorry, Isabella.”

Catherine moved to climb the ladder. Ascending to the top, she cautiously lifted the grate.

The plaza was empty except for the figure of a man a little distance away. His back was to her as he knelt over his cello. “Isabella, Isabella…” he kept saying over and over.

She cautiously climbed the rest of the way out of the music chamber and walked up to him.

“Are you all right?” she quietly asked.

He jumped. For a moment he thought the thugs had returned. He relaxed a little when he saw Catherine. She looked like an angel to him, standing there in the moonlight, having appeared out of nowhere.

He shook his head and closed his eyes for a moment and asked, “Isabella?”

Catherine smiled a little and said, “No… I’m Catherine. Is that Isabella?” she asked pointing to the cello.

His shoulders drooped as he turned again to his cello lying on the ground. “Look what they did to her. I was supposed to protect her. She trusted me and I failed her… Oh, Isabella.” He began to weep again. Seemingly oblivious to Catherine’s presence.

Catherine walked over to where the cello case had landed and retrieved it.

“She’s beautiful,” Catherine whispered.

“Yes… she was beautiful… now she’s…” His voice trailed off.

“She looks old.”

“She is. She was a part of me.”

 “What’s your name?”

“David”

“David what?”

He looked up at her, suddenly suspicious of her motives. “You ask an awful lot of questions. Who are you, Lady?”

“I’m Catherine… Catherine Chandler… I work for the District Attorney’s office.”

He jumped up. “Hey, I don’t want anything to do with the cops.”

“No, no! David, that’s not why I’m here. I won’t call the police. I promise.”

“Then why are you bothering me?” He was becoming agitated, pacing back and forth. “I just want to be left alone. Why won’t people just leave me alone?

“I was listening… I heard you play… her… Isabella.”

“You what?”

“I’ve never heard anything like that in my entire life. It was beautiful.”

“I hope you enjoyed it, Lady. You never will again.” He was still pacing back and forth mumbling and crying.

“Maybe she can be fixed.”

He began shaking his head back and forth. Through his tears he said, “I play on street corners for spare change, Lady. Now… I don’t even have anything to play… No, Lady, she can’t be… fixed. Even if I could find someone qualified to even touch her. Fixing a cello like her… it would cost more money than I’ll ever have. The way she is now… she might as well be a pile of toothpicks.”

“Hey, what’s going on over there?”

Catherine and David both turned toward the voice to see a Park Policeman on horseback coming toward them.

“No no no no no…” David began to panic. “I said no cops, Lady!”

“David… It wasn’t me… I didn’t.”

She looked at the policeman and when she looked back to David and he was gone.

“Are you all right, M'am?” the policeman asked as he shined his flashlight in her direction.

“I’m fine officer. Thank you.”

“What are you doing here in the park this late at night?”

“I was here for the concert. Some guys grabbed my friend’s cello and broke it.”

“I didn’t see anyone.”

“They ran when they heard you coming.”

“And your friend?”

“I guess he ran too.”

“You got a nice friend there, M'am. It looks like he left you holding the cello.

She looked at broken cello lying on the ground and sighed. “Yes, I guess he did.”

She picked up the cello carefully and gently placed Isabella’s battered body into the case. “Officer, would you please shine your light over here for a moment?”

The officer dismounted and came over with his flashlight. “What are you looking for, M'am?”

“The bow, for one thing. And I want to make sure I haven’t missed any of the pieces.”

“Why even bother, M'am? It doesn’t look like its good for much anymore… except maybe kindling.”

“I’m hoping I can get it repaired.”

“I’m no expert, M'am, but it looks to me like Humpty Dumpty would have a better chance than that cello. Here you go, M'am,” he said as he handed her the bow.

“Thank you, officer,” she said, reaching for the bow. “I wish you wouldn’t call me ‘M'am’. That’s what people used to call my grandmother.” After assuring herself that she had all of the pieces, she closed the case and stood up with it. “Thank you officer. I appreciate your help.”

“I’ll see you safely out of the park, M'am. Where are you going?”

She couldn’t help but laugh. “I live nearby. It isn’t far.”

                                                                       ****

Less than an hour later Catherine stood at her dining room table staring down at David’s broken cello when she heard a tap on her balcony door.

She rushed to the balcony and into Vincent’s waiting arms. “Vincent” she said. “I’m sorry, I didn’t come back. I didn’t have any way to let you know.”

“It’s all right, Catherine. I was nearby. I saw what happened… what you tried to do for him.”

She pulled away and turned her back to him.

“What is it, Catherine?”

“I’m sorry, Vincent… for… holding you back like that… it’s just that…”

“Catherine” Vincent interrupted, putting his hand on her shoulder and gently turning her to face him. “There is no need to apologize. You were right. If you hadn’t held me back…” He sighed. “I could have jeopardized everything.”

She nodded. “I know you wanted to help him.”

“So did you.”

 “Yes,she nodded.

“Did he see you come through the grate?”

Shaking her head, she said “No. He was kneeling over her, weeping. Vincent… it was heart breaking. When he looked up… he called me Isabella. I wonder if Isabella was a real person? Someone he loved?”

“Yes, I wondered that myself. I was nearby when you were talking to him. I wanted to make sure you were safe. How bad is it?”

“Pretty bad. I feel somewhat responsible. I keep thinking that I should have done something.”

“But you did, Catherine… You tried… You even got there before I did.”

“I don’t know if it can be repaired. I think I have it all… but…”

“May I look at it?” Vincent asked.

Vincent didn’t often enter her apartment. Catherine was aware that he was more comfortable out on the balcony. She took his hand and he followed her to her tiny dining room. They stood there looking at it in silence.

Finally Catherine asked, “What do you think?”

Finally he said, “It looks old. She must be very important to him. We have a helper who repairs our string instruments. He restrings them and rehairs the bows. From time to time he does more extensive repairs. He gives a few of the children lessons. I could take it to him.”

“Actually, Vincent… I would like to do it myself if you don’t mind. I feel like he left it in my care. I should take responsibility for it.”

Vincent nodded. “Very well. If you bring me some paper and a pen, I will write down his name and address for you. I’ll send word to him in the morning that you will be coming…”

                                                                       ****   

Catherine went straight to the music store first thing the next morning. She knew it meant she would be late for work, but she felt an urgency that had plagued her through the night. She needed to relieve herself of it as quickly as possible.

She stepped out of the cab and looked around at all of the shops. She finally spotted it, ‘Jonas Meeks Strings Attached, Fine string instruments and repair.’ It was 8:30 am. She could see that the lights were on but no one was visible through the store front. She rapped loudly on the door. “Hello? Is anyone in there?”

After a moment a man who looked to be about 40 came to the door. He looked irritated as he pointed to the sign on the door that indicated the hours they were open. It clearly said ‘Opened 9 am to 6pm.’ “We open at 9 o’clock, M'am.”

Just then she felt a tugging at her elbow. When she turned, she was surprised to see Kipper standing there. “Hi, Catherine! I didn’t think you would beat me here,” he said, a little out of breath.

Before she could speak, he unfolded a note that was in his hand and held it against the glass door so that the shopkeeper could read it, and then he pointed at Catherine.

The shop keeper’s eye widened and he looked at Catherine again as if he now recognized her. Opening the door, he extended a hand. “So you’re Catherine? Vincent’s Catherine? It’s nice to finally meet you. I’m Jonas, by the way.”

Catherine laughed, noting the quick change in his demeanor. “I would love to shake your hand, Jonas, but as you can see I have mine full at the moment.” And indeed she did. She had her brief case in one hand, a beat up cello case in the other and her purse was threatening to slide off of her shoulder any second.

“Come in. Come in.” He let Catherine and Kipper into the shop and locked the door behind them. “So what have you got here?”

“It’s a cello… she's badly broken I'm afraid… some creeps in the park last night… I’m hoping you can fix her.”

He laughed. “Her? She must be very special to you.”

Catherine smiled. “She isn’t mine. I brought her in for a friend.” Then remembering how the music had made her feel, she said, “And, yes, she is very special.”

“Let’s take a look at her then.”

“Actually, Jonas, I am already late for work. Can I just leave her here with you? I’ll give you my number so you can reach me when you have had time to take a good look. Would that be all right?”
“Yes, yes, I understand. And don’t worry, Catherine … I’ll take good care of the ‘Lady’” Jonas said, nodding as he escorted her to the door.

This time she shook his hand and then she tousled Kipper’s hair. “Thanks, Kipper, you’re a life saver.” As she climbed into the taxi she looked back with a smile. “Say hello to everyone for me.”

“Sure thing, Catherine,” Kipper said as he waved goodbye.
                                                                        ****

Joe approached her before she even had a chance to sit down at her desk, “Hey, Radcliffe, you’re late.”

“I know, Joe. I’m really sorry.” She looked up apologetically. “I’ll make it up, I promise.”

 “Yeah, yeah. Hey, I don’t want to seem nosy or anything, but that buddy of mine that works undercover said he saw you in the park again late last night with some bum. He wanted to make sure you were okay. Is there anything I need to know about?”

Catherine smiled indulgently. She appreciated Joe’s concern for her. “No, Joe. Nothing you need to know about. Everything’s fine.”

Looking a little frustrated, Joe was not ready to let it pass. Sitting on the edge of the desk, he said, “Look, Radcliffe, I know you are slumming it a little working here with us mooks, but hanging out at the park late at night with bums? That’s even a little below my usual social set, if you know what I mean. What gives?”

Catherine couldn’t help rolling her eyes. “You’re starting to sound like my father, Joe.” She rolled her eyes in exasperation. “Fine!” She relented with a frustrated sigh. “If you must know, Joe, he wasn’t a bum, he was a musician.”

The scowl on Joe’s face only deepened. “Tomato, potato, Radcliffe. What’s the difference?”

Despite the serious expression on Joe’s face, Catherine couldn’t help but laugh. “Hahaha… I think it’s ‘tomato, tomahto’, Joe. And there is a big difference. Anyway… I wasn’t alone… I was with a friend… and the guy needed a hand… That’s all, Joe! Really!

Joe looked doubtful. As he began to walk away, he said “Just remember I’m keeping an eye on you, Radcliffe.”

Catherine rolled her eyes again. “I’m a big girl, Joe.”

Joe let it drop and Catherine hoped that was the last she would hear about it.

                                                                        ****

Later that afternoon just after returning from a deposition, Joe approached her again.  

“Hey, Radcliffe, is everything okay with you?”

“Yeah, Joe. Why?”

“While you were out I just happened to go past your desk when the phone rang. So I took a message.”

Looking up from her desk she could see the look of concern on Joe’s face. “Are you going to give it to me?”

“In my office.”

“You’re making me nervous, Joe. What is it?” She asked as she followed him into the office and closed the door.

Joe picked up a yellow memo pad, “Some guy named Jonas the Luther, said, ‘Tell Catherine I’ve carefully examined the lady she brought in. She’s got cracked ribs, her neck is broken in three places and her head is nearly split in two. Her body is in pretty bad shape, but if it hadn’t been for her… pewter… purfling ? Whatever that is… it would have been much worse. Jonas says, he can fix her for your friend, but it will take time and she may have visible scars. Her market value will be much less than it was before the attack.’ He says he needs you to call him as soon as you can. He said something about there being strings attached.” Joe looked up from the memo. “Who is this ‘Lady’, Cathy, and what the *&% happened to her?”

Catherine was touched by his concern. Catherine let out an exasperated sigh. “She’s called Isabella. Some punks used her as a punching bag in the Park last night… More kicking than punching actually.”

“Did you call the cops?”

“No, Joe, by the time I got there the guys who did it were long gone. The police can’t do anything.”

“Just what are you mixed up in, Radcliffe? First you’re hanging out in the park with shady characters and now this? Is this guy Jonas even a legitimate doctor?  If your friend is in such bad shape, she should be in a hospital. It sounds to me like she might not even make it. If you need to leave and go to her, I can cover for you.”

Catherine’s eyebrows shot up in surprise when she realized Joe’s mistake. She began squeezing the bridge of her nose and looked away in an effort not to laugh. Joe seemed so genuinely concerned that she didn’t want to hurt his feelings.

He mistakenly thought she was trying not to cry and came towards her to comfort her when he heard her snort. “Cathy? … Wait… Are you laughing?”

She couldn’t help it. She couldn’t hold it in. She began to shake her head and doubled over laughing.

Joe just stood there in confusion. He thought she might be having some kind of break down when she finally spoke.

“I’m sorry, Joe. I don’t mean to be rude. It’s just that you misunderstood the message.”

“Isabella isn’t hurt then?”

Catherine nodded as she wiped the tears from her eyes. “Oh yes, she’s hurt all right, but Jonas isn’t a doctor. He’s a luthier.”

Joe looked at her blankly.

“A cello repairman, Joe! Strings Attached is the name of his shop. Isabella is a cello.”

Joe still looked confused so she explained further. “You know… A giant violin?”

“I know what a cello is, Radcliffe. It’s just that…” His shoulders sagged in relief. “… jeez, Cathy, I’ve been worried sick about how to give you this message and…”

Catherine chuckled softly and put her hand on Joe’s shoulder. “I’m sorry you were worried, Joe. If it helps… I think it was very sweet… and I can see how you could misinterpret it the way you did.” She was trying not to laugh as she spoke, but she found it impossible to hide the smirk on her face. “Come on, Joe, you’ve got to see that it is a little funny.”

Joe began to smile. “Okay, I guess it is, but who names a cello anyway? Ya gotta admit… that’s a little weird.”

“Is it really, Joe? And I suppose you haven’t named your car?”

Joe looked at her sheepishly and nodded. “Okay, you got me. I might have named my car.”

“Some people name their cello for the same reason you named your car.”

Joe finally broke out in a laugh. “Yeah, I guess you got a point. What did you call that guy again? That cello repair guy?”

“A luthier? Why?”

“You are very educational, Cathy. Who knows when I might be in a position to impress a beautiful cultured woman with that little tidbit of information?”

They both laughed.

“Well, just so you know, Joe, I think you’re pretty impressive already.”

Slightly embarrassed, Joe placed his hands on her shoulders and turned her toward the door. “That’s enough schmoozing the boss, Radcliffe, now get back to work!”

He could hear her laughing as she returned to her desk and dialed the phone.

 “Strings Attached, how can I help you?”

“May I speak to Jonas?”

“This is Jonas.”

“Jonas, this is Catherine Chandler. I got your message.”

“Oh… Yeah... Catherine… Hey, I need to talk to you about this cello. Can you come back down here today?”

“Um… Sure… I’m not sure what time I will be done here. Can I call you when I’m leaving the office? I can’t get there before you close. Is that going to be a problem?”

“Not a problem, Catherine, I’ll stay here until you can get here.”

“Thanks, Jonas.”

                                                                        ****

Standing in Jonas’ shop, Catherine listened to him explain.

“This cello is a Sebastian Klotz, Catherine.”

Catherine shook her head. “What does that mean?”

“It’s an antique. It’s over two hundred years old. There aren’t very many of these left. I’ve only ever seen one Sebastian Klotz in my whole life. Hang on… let me get my light in here so I can show you… yep… there it is. Sebastian Klotz 1755.”

Catherine leaned in and looked at the label through the scope.

“Who did you get this from, Catherine?”

“He’s a busker I guess… a street musician. He was playing in Central Park.”

“Violins this old… they usually have names or a provenance. Did he tell you anything about it? Do you know if he has a name for her?”

Catherine smiled at his reference to the cello as ‘her.’ “Yes, he called her Isabella.”

Jonas’ face went pale. “Isabella!” he gasped. “Oh, Isabella!” He groaned and reached out to reverently touch the instrument.

“What’s wrong, Jonas? Does that mean something to you?”

Looking up at her, she could see how distressed he was.

“There are stories among luthiers. Histories of famous master luthiers, famous violinists and cellists, legendary instruments. People hear about Stradivarius, but they aren’t the only family that made violins. The Klotz family have been making violins in Mittenwald, Germany since the 1600’s. If a cello this old has survived in this condition… well, in the condition that she was in before this happened, it means she was well cared for, loved, cherished. She was heirloom quality. I happen to know that this particular one, Isabella, has been handed down in the same family for generations. I have to ask, Catherine, where did this guy get his hands on it? What’s his name?”

“He said his name was David.”

“It wouldn’t happen to be David Geiger would it?”

“I don’t know. All he would tell me was David.”

“Did you by any chance hear him play it? … you know… before this happened?”

Catherine nodded. “Yes.

“What did it sound like? Was he good?”

Catherine’s eyes grew misty as she remembered the beautiful haunting music and what it had done to her. “It was beautiful, Jonas. It took my breath away… and it broke my heart. I’ve never heard anything like it.”

Jonas nodded.

“Do you know him?”

He nodded again. “Yes. I knew David… a long time ago. He was so good! He was a legend when we were at Julliard. So was his cello. I’ve never heard anyone play like David and Isabella. But I was afraid he might be dead. No one… not even his family have heard from him in years. How did you find him?”

“He was playing Isabella in the park last night at the Naumburg Bandshell.”

“In the concert?”

“No… no… it was after the concert. After everyone was gone. When the park was empty… he came. He was playing in the dark… in the moonlight… alone. After he finished playing some guys started harassing him and did this. Vincent frightened them away, but not before the damage was done.”

“David didn’t see Vincent, did he?” Jonas asked, clearly concerned.

Catherine shook her head. “No, just me. What’s David’s story, Jonas? Do you know what happened to him?”

“I can’t tell you David’s story without first telling you Isabella’s.” He looked around and pulled up a stool for her to sit on.

Later that night on her balcony, Catherine shared it all with Vincent.

                                                                         ****

Back in the mid-1700’s in Germany there was a talented young cellist named Franz Geiger. He fell deeply and hopelessly in love with a beautiful young woman in his village named Isabella. But Franz’ father had plans for him that did not include the complications of a wife and children. At least not until Franz had made a name for himself and secured his future as a renowned musician. It nearly killed Franz but he ultimately chose to honor his father’s wishes and leave his small village and Isabella to pursue his father’s dreams for him. He made a vow to Isabella that one day he would return for her. A few years later he did return to finally claim his love and marry her only to discover that while he was gone she had died of typhoid fever. Some however said that she had given up on him ever returning to her and she had died of a broken heart. On her death bed she had declared that it didn’t matter if she lived or died because Franz was her life and without him there was nothing.

Franz was overcome by grief. His beautiful Isabella, the only woman he could ever love, was gone and with her all his hopes and dreams were meaningless. He gave up playing the cello and became a recluse. He vowed he would never forgive his father nor speak to him again as long as he lived.

His father felt responsible for the tragedy. He was so distraught over it that in desperation he travelled to Mittenwald, Germany to seek out Sebastian Klotz, a renowned violin luthier, and commissioned him to make a special cello for his son. He would spare no expense. It had to be the best cello he had ever made. He would pay for the best wood, the best of everything.

According to the legend, he commissioned a local artist to paint a small likeness of Isabella inside the body of the cello. Strands of Isabella’s hair were inlaid under the pewter purfling. The bow was even strung with Isabella’s long black hair that had been cut off during her illness.

 When Sebastian Klotz finished it, he declared that he had never made a finer instrument. But when he played the cello he was dismayed to discover that it sounded flat and lacked the full, rich tones that were the mark of fine instrument. Herr Geiger had already told Franz about the cello. When they arrived to collect it, Sebastian explained that the instrument was worthless and apologized profusely. He promised to make another one free of charge, but Franz wouldn’t hear of it. He didn’t care that it wouldn’t play. It was all that was left of his beloved Isabella and he accepted the gift gratefully.

To everyone’s surprise when Franz began to play, the music was unbelievably beautiful and haunting, like nothing they had ever heard before. When he finished playing there wasn’t a dry eye in the room. From that day forward Franz and Isabella were never separated. Franz and his cello became famous and travelled widely throughout Europe performing for the wealthy, the nobility and even for royalty. Eventually Franz married and had a large family, but Isabella would always be the love of his life. On his dying day his beloved Isabella was there by his side. They say that the original bow that was strung with her hair was buried with him. He and his beloved Isabella… together forever.

The cello has been passed down in the Geiger family from generation to generation ever since. She is always given to the child who can play her best. According to the legend, Isabella could never be sold because she had died of a broken heart and she wouldn’t play for anyone but a descendant of her beloved Franz… because without him her heart is still broken. Some even say that Isabella chooses the child that most resembles her beloved Franz.

                                                                         ****

Vincent sighed. “So you were right, Isabella was a real person.”

Catherine nodded. “Yes… in way… just not someone that David actually knew. Jonas needs me to bring David to his shop. He won’t touch Isabella without David giving him permission in person. He says he needs David to oversee every step of the restoration or he won’t do it.”

“Did Jonas tell you anything about David? What is his part in this story?”

Catherine nodded and began. “Jonas and David were good friends once, when they attended Julliard. David was already well known in the music world before they even graduated. Jonas says that he is incredibly talented.”

“Yes, we already knew that, didn’t we?”

Catherine nodded in agreement. “Yes… well… David was drafted into the Army shortly after graduation. When he left for Viet Nam, he left Isabella with Jonas. Apparently a cello needs to be played to be kept ‘alive’, so David chose Jonas because he was the best cellist he knew and he trusted Jonas to keep her safe until he returned.”

“I thought you said she wouldn’t play for anyone outside of the family.”

Catherine nodded. “Yes, that’s right. As it turns out, Jonas is family… in a way. He is married to David’s sister, Karen. Even so, David said that the cello never sounded as good when he played it.”

“What happened to him?”

Catherine shook her head. “David is an artist, Vincent. He has a gentle soul. Can you imagine, what the war must have done to him?”

Vincent nodded thoughtfully. “Yes, I can. After the war we had men… veterans… come into the tunnels from time to time. War… killing and seeing men killed… it can wound a soul very deeply, even twist it. Many are never the same.”

Catherine continued her story. “When David came home to collect Isabella, Jonas hardly recognized him. He says that David was so broken that he just seemed to collapse inside of himself. He wouldn’t socialize or go out much. He just stayed at home and played Isabella day in and day out.

“His parents were so worried about him that they tried to get him into a hospital. They tried to get him to go for help. They even tried to take Isabella away from him. They fought over it constantly. One day David just left. He walked out of the house with Isabella and no one has seen or heard from him since. The last time anyone heard from him was back in 1975. They’ve all but given him up for dead.”

Looking up at Vincent she said, “Vincent, I’m worried about what might happen to him… what he might do if he believes he has lost Isabella.”

“Then we must find him, Catherine.”

“I don’t even know where to start, Vincent. This is a big city, and as far as I can tell he has been invisible for a very long time.”

Vincent was thoughtful. “I have an idea, Catherine. Let me see what I can do.”

Catherine slipped into his arms. “Thank you, Vincent. I have a feeling that time is of the essence. If Isabella is as important to him as Jonas believes she is, he might be overcome with grief over this loss. Especially if he holds himself responsible.”

“Why would he hold himself responsible, Catherine?”

“Something he said… in the park… He said ‘I was supposed to protect her. She trusted me and I failed her.’ He was weeping. I’m worried about him.”

Vincent nodded. “I understand. Trust me, Catherine, we will find him.”

As he made his way home his inner voice taunted him. You did it again, Vincent. You asked her to trust you. Can she… trust you? Why should she?

After Vincent left the balcony, Catherine stood on the balcony and looked out into the night. What does it do to you, Vincent? she wondered. How does it wound your gentle soul whenever you have to…? She couldn’t allow herself to finish the thought.

  ****

Vincent found a quiet unseen spot in the shadows beside the bandshell and waited. He could hear the night sounds of the park clearly: The sound of traffic in the distance, lovers walking and speaking softly with one another, teenagers laughing. The soft burbling of the water in the Bethesda Fountain not far away was soothing. The moon shone onto the bandshell and the plaza just in front of it. Vincent tried to imagine what it would be like to sit up here during a concert with Catherine by his side. He knew that could never be, but it didn’t hurt to dream… well actually, sometimes it did… but he couldn’t help it. He seemed to do it more since Catherine had come into his life.

Then he heard i … the sound of slow footsteps on the plaza. He looked up and there in the moonlight was a disheveled man in ragged clothes walking toward the bandshell. When he reached it he slumped down on the ground and began to weep. From time to time Vincent could hear him saying Isabella’s name.

“Are you David?” he finally asked.

David froze in fear.

“Don’t be afraid,” Vincent whispered. “I’m not here to harm you.”

David began to turn toward Vincent’s voice.

“Please don’t turn around, David,” Vincent whispered. “I don’t want to frighten you.”

“Who are you? What do you want? I don’t have any money,” he said in desperation.

“My name is Vincent. I have no need of your money. Are you looking for Isabella?”

“Do you know where she is? Do you know what’s happened to her?” David desperately pleaded.

“Catherine took her home. Isabella is safe.”

David shook his head. “No… she's not safe. I failed her. She’s broken. She’s ruined.”

“No, David, Catherine took Isabella to a luthier. He says he can fix her, but he won’t do it without your approval.”

“How do I know you are telling the truth? Why would you… or this Catherine want to help someone like me?”

Vincent was silent for a moment and then he said, “For the music, David… For the music.”

David was silent for a minute.

“You heard my music?”

“Yes, I have… several times. It’s beautiful. It touches my soul… It heals me.”

David nodded in the dark. “Yes,” he sighed. “… it heals me too.”

After another long silence, David asked, “Where can I find this Catherine? Will she take me to Isabella?”

“Can you meet her here tomorrow morning? Around eleven?”

                                                                          ****

When he got to the plaza, there were several people milling around the bandshell; a skate boarder, kids bouncing a ball, someone walking their dog. He spotted a woman sitting quietly on the stage. He wasn’t sure if it was her. He had only seen her for a few moments in the moonlight.

Approaching her with caution, he asked, “Are you Catherine?”

She could see how nervous he was. She didn’t want to frighten him away. She nodded, but she didn’t move or say anything else.

“Vincent said to meet you here. He said you took Isabella somewhere.”

“Is your name David Geiger?” she ventured.

“How do you know that?” He regarded her.

“The luthier I took Isabella to… His name is Jonas Meeks. He recognized her. He says he can fix her, but he needs you to help. Do you trust me enough to come with me, David?”

He was quiet for a minute and then said, “What choice do I have?”

                                                                         ****

When Jonas walked out of the back of the shop, David froze. The two men stared at each other from across the room.

“David? Is that really you?”

“It’s been a long time, Jonas. How are you?” David asked nervously.

Jonas nodded. “I have no complaints. You?”

“I… you know… take it one day at a time these days. I have good days and bad days. The last couple… have been pretty bad.”

Jonas nodded. “We all thought you were dead, David. Where have you been?”

David began to shake a little. “I… uhhh… I’ve been all over. I wandered around the country for a long time. I started getting my head together a couple of years ago. I’ve been sober for 22 months and thirteen days. I’ve been back in New York for about six months.”

“Do your parents know? … that you're back?”

David shook his head. “Nah… I’m not quite ready for that, Jonas.”

Jonas nodded. “Okay… Hey, David… I won’t push.”

“Thanks. Catherine here tells me you think you can… fix… Isabella.”

Jonas nodded again. “She’s in pretty bad shape, but I think we can.”

“I don’t have any money, Jonas. I can’t pay you anything.”

Jonas came a little closer and put his hand on David’s shoulder. “I already figured that. I thought maybe you could work it out. A trade maybe?”

David’s shoulders slumped and he shook his head. “I don’t have anything of value to trade, Jonas. All I had was Isabella and now…” his voice faded and he shook his head again.

“No, David, that’s not what I mean.” Jonas said. “You could help me here in the shop. If I am going to fix Isabella I need you to be nearby. I want you to oversee every step of the restoration or I can’t do it. I won’t do it any other way. She’s too important. She’s a legend. It would be tragic for her to be lost… forever. Don’t you think? Do we have a deal?”

David hesitated. “You won’t call anyone? The cops or the hospital or my parents?”

“Cross my heart, man, I swear… I won’t even tell Karen if you don’t want me to.”

“You and Karen are still together?”

Jonas smiled. “Fifteen years and counting. We have three kids… We named our oldest David. I hope you don’t mind.”

David laughed. “No… I don’t mind.”

“Do you have a place to stay? There’s an old apartment above the shop. It’s a storage room at the moment, but I could clear it out for you if you need it.”

David began to cry. “Why are you doing this for me, Jonas? I don’t deserve it.”

Jonas put his hand on David’s shoulder again. “We’re family, David. We were friends once too. All these years… I kept hoping you were still… out there somewhere… alive… you know?”

David was too choked up to speak, but he nodded his acceptance of help from his old friend.

As Catherine left, she was convinced that she had left David and Isabella in good hands.

                                                                          ****

Over the following weeks, Catherine kept an eye on Jonas and David. She would drop by the shop every Saturday to see how things were coming along. She found it fascinating to see the process of the restoration and Isabella’s slow but sure recovery. She thought it strange that it brought back memories of her own recovery from a senseless attack a year and a half earlier.

What Catherine found even more fascinating was the gradual change she was seeing in David. Jonas was indeed involving David in every step of Isabella’s restoration. He was carefully teaching David how to make some of the repairs. It slowly became apparent to Catherine that Jonas was helping David make essential repairs to himself as well.

As the cello was slowly restored to its former glory, likewise Catherine began to see a new and better David emerging. He was clean shaven and dressed more professionally. He was more confident around people. He even began giving cello lessons to some of Jonas’ Tunnel students.

One Friday while visiting Vincent for an impromptu recital given by the children Below, Catherine was surprised to see David leading the small orchestra. At the reception that followed the concert, Catherine approached him.

As they shook hands, Catherine said, “This is certainly a surprise! I had no idea that you had been introduced to the Tunnels… and I see you’ve met Vincent.”

David smiled. “Jonas thought I would be scared of him.” He looked over at Vincent. “I’ve seen a lot of scary things in my life… some real and some… in my head.” He looked thoughtful for a moment and then looked back at her. “Vincent isn’t the scariest by a long shot. Do you mind if I ask you a question, Catherine?”

“What is it?”

“That night… with those kids in the park… was it Vincent… you know… that scared them away?”

Catherine nodded. “Yes… it was,” she answered softly.

Just then Vincent appeared at her side. She took his hand and said, “I was just telling David how surprised I was to see him down here.”

“Yes, Jonas felt it might be good for David to come down here from time to time,” Vincent explained.

“Sometimes all the people up there can be… a little too much,” David said. “I’ve been alone for a really long time. Sometimes I just need a quiet place.”

“David uses one of the more secluded guest chambers when he needs to be alone.”

“And Father doesn’t mind?” Catherine asked.

Vincent chuckled. “Father is thrilled with the music lessons he has been so generously giving the children. He has even been teaching them how to properly care for their instruments.”

                                                                       ****

One day in early November, Catherine answered her phone at work. “Catherine Chandler’s desk.”

“Catherine, this is Jonas.”

She was instantly concerned. “Is everything all right, Jonas?”

“Everything’s fine. I was just calling to let you know that Isabella is finished.”

“Really?”

“Really… David said to call you and see if you could come by tonight for the unveiling.”

“Oh, Jonas, I would love that! Is 7 o’clock all right? I can come straight from work.”

“See you then.”

Catherine was right on time. Strings Attached was closed, but the light was on inside so she knocked.

As Jonas let her in, he laughed. “Can you believe this weather, Catherine? It was a beautiful day. I wonder how long this Indian Summer will last?”

Catherine laughed too. “I don’t care, Jonas. I’m just trying to enjoy it while it’s here.”

He locked the door and led Catherine up to the second floor apartment. “I can’t wait to see it, Jonas. Has he played her yet?”

Jonas shook his head. “No. He’s a little nervous. If she doesn’t sound right then we’ve wasted all our time and effort.”

“Think positive, Jonas. She’s going to be fine. She has to be.”

David was waiting for them. Looking around, Catherine could see that the tiny apartment was sparsely furnished, but it was clean and had all the essentials. David came to join them.

Shaking Catherine’s hand he said, “Thank you, Catherine. Thank you for coming, and thank you for all you have done.”

Smiling, Catherine replied. “You’re welcome, David. I can honestly say it’s been a pleasure. I have learned so much watching the restoration process.” She thought for a moment and said, “I have learned a lot by watching you too, David. You have changed a lot in the last couple of months.”

David smiled, a little embarrassed, and rubbed his shirt. “Yes, well, it’s a wonder what a fresh clean shirt can do.” Then looking at Jonas. “Thanks for the clothes, Jonas.”

“Think nothing of it, David. It’s not like any of them were ever going to fit me again.” He laughingly rubbed his slightly protruding stomach. “It’s good to see that someone can use them.” Then he clapped his hands together and said, “Are we ready for this?”

“Please… both of you sit down… here.” David led them to two chairs in his “dining room” and then sat across the room in an identical chair. He poised himself to begin playing and then seemed to freeze.

“David? Are you all right?” Jonas asked.

David tenderly put Isabella aside on her stand and seemed to crumble in tears. “I can’t, I can’t…” he kept saying over and over.

Catherine crossed the room and softly touched his shoulder. “David? What’s wrong?”

He looked up at her and said, “I don’t deserve to have her. I was supposed to take care of her and I let that… happen. I couldn’t stop them.”

Catherine thought she understood. She went back and got her chair and placed it next to his and sat down. She took a deep breath and began to speak. “About a year and a half ago I was attacked …”

David looked up at her as if he was ready to listen.

She took another deep breath. She rarely spoke about her experience, but even after so long it was never far from her thoughts. She continued, “About a year and half ago I was grabbed off of the street and beaten.” She closed her eyes and absently put her hand up to the scar on the side of her face. “They… slashed my face and then dumped me, bleeding in the park.”

David eyes were riveted on her… listening to every word.

“They left me for dead. That’s where Vincent found me. He took me Below and Father stitched up all of my wounds. Vincent took care of me until I was well enough to go home.”

“But your face… it looks fine.”

Catherine nodded. “Yes… the doctor was able to fix it.” Then shaking her head, she said, “But there were wounds… on the inside too. Wounds no one could see.”

David nodded. “Yes,” he whispered. David knew all too well about those kinds of wounds.

“David, Isabella was nearly destroyed, but you and Jonas have lovingly restored her. She is more beautiful than she was before… isn’t she.”

David looked at Isabella. “Yes… she must have looked like this when she was new.”

Catherine nodded. “Yes… but the wounds on the inside… she isn’t carrying those, David, you are.”

He looked back at her again.

“You and Jonas have done everything you can to heal her. Now you need to let her heal you. I’ve heard your music, David. Her music will heal you. It heals me… but you have to play it.”

He looked at Jonas. “Jonas, will you play her first? Please?” he pleaded. “Then I’ll know.”

“But, David, I… she never…”

“Jonas, please.

Jonas rose to trade seats with David and slowly picked up the instrument. As he began to play a Bach cello piece. David closed his eyes and Catherine observed the two of them in silence. After a few minutes David reached out and stopped the arm that held the bow. They stared at each other for several seconds before David said, “It… sounds awful.”

Jonas looked apologetic. “I know… I’m sorry, David.”

Then David began to smile. “She still won’t play for you, will she?”

Jonas looked relieved and said, “You know, I think you’re right… that’s how she always sounded when I tried to play her before.” He stood up and traded places with his brother-in-law.

Catherine and Jonas resumed their original positions across the room and David began to play the same piece of music. Catherine was amazed at the difference. The music filled the room and it filled her heart and she felt as if she could float away on it.

As David became lost in the music, Jonas stood and motioned for Catherine to follow him. They headed for the stairs and left David and Isabella alone.

Down in the shop Catherine couldn’t help but ask. “What made the difference, Jonas? Why was he able to make her sound so beautiful when you couldn’t?”

Jonas scratched his head and thought for a moment. “The thing is, Catherine… that when someone like David has played one instrument for so many years, the two of them develop a relationship. After a while they just belong together. He knows exactly what to do to make the music live. To him, Isabella is a living, breathing instrument. And in a way I don’t really understand, Isabella knows the difference between David and anyone else who tries to play her. It’s almost like… she has a soul. She knows that David loves her. I don’t completely understand it, but I respect it. They are… soul mates. They know each other so well… that without her his life would be meaningless… and without him… she is nothing. But together… Aaahhhh… what they make together is… glorious. I have seen it with great musicians and their instruments from time to time over the years. I could fix Isabella’s body, but she will never sound the same without David.”

Just then the door to the shop opened and Karen Meeks walked in. Catherine had never met Jonas’ wife, but she recognized her from the pictures in Jonas’ office. She looked angry and it was clear that she had been crying.

Jonas froze. “K- uh –Karen. Hi Honey. Is everything okay?”

She shot a look that could kill at Catherine and then looked back to Jonas. “So… this is your ‘important restoration project’?” She said, making quotation marks in the air with her fingers. It looks like she turned out pretty good.” She said bitterly.

“What?” he asked, clearly confused about her meaning.

“So this is where we are, Jonas? After fifteen years of marriage, you decided to just move on? Is that it? I saw the lights on up there. Do you two have a little love nest up there in our old apartment?” Karen’s voice was getting higher with each sentence.

Jonas finally realized what his wife was thinking. So did Catherine. “Huh? Oh!… no no no n … Karen, Honey… you got it all wrong. This isn’t what you’re thinking.”

“What am I thinking, Jonas? Do you think I’m stupid? Do you think I haven’t noticed that you have been keeping secrets from me for the last couple of months? Did you think I wouldn’t notice that some of your clothes are missing? Come on, Jonas! After fifteen years I know you!”

Just then David burst into the room from the upstairs apartment. “Hey, Jonas I think I’m going to go out and grab something to…” He stopped in his tracks. Standing in front of him was his sister.

Catherine felt like she was watching a train wreck in slow motion and she was powerless to do anything about it.

After a few very silent, electrically charged minutes Karen spoke. “David? David! Is that really you?” She began walking slowly toward him and he panicked.

Shaking his head and backing away. “No no no no no… You promised!” he screamed at Jonas “You said you wouldn’t tell anyone! I should never have trusted you!”

“David… I didn’t tell… I promise… I didn’t,” Jonas insisted.

Shaking his head, David continued to back up. “I don’t believe you! I trusted you!”

When he got to the door leading to the back of the shop he turned around and bolted for the door.

“David!” Catherine called after him and ran after him, but by the time she reached the back door he had disappeared down the alley.

Catherine returned to the front of the shop. Shaking her head, she said, “He’s gone.”

“I have to go find him,” Jonas said as he made a move for the door.

Catherine put her hand up. “No… NO… Jonas,” she said pointing at Jonas and then to Karen. “First, you need to take care of business here! You need to explain all of this to your wife. I will go look for David.”

Catherine took a taxi home and then headed for the threshold. She didn’t need to bang on the pipes. Vincent had felt her need and was there before she was.

“Tell me, Catherine.”

When Catherine told him everything that happened, he wrapped his arms around her. “You have done all that you can for him, Catherine. You couldn’t have anticipated anything like that.”

“But, Vincent, he was doing so well. I thought… I don’t know what I thought. But he is out there angry and hurt. He thinks that we tricked him.”

“Catherine,” he sighed. “It’s up to him now. No matter how much we care for someone. No matter how much we try to help them. Ultimately they have to want to help themselves. I will go back and tell Father what has happened… in case he comes Below. Then I will go and check the park. Perhaps he is there.”

“Thank you, Vincent.”

It was only a few hours later that Catherine was awakened by a tapping on her balcony door.

She threw a bathrobe over her nightgown and rushed to Vincent’s side. “What is it, Vincent?”

“David has come Below, Catherine. I found him at the bandshell and convinced him that it would safer for him to come Below.”

“Can you take me to him? I need to explain. I need to make him understand.”

Shaking his head, Vincent said, “No, Catherine. He has asked to be left alone. I think we should respect that, at least for now. He needs some time… to think.”

“Do you think that’s best?”

“We will keep an eye on him. I promise, Catherine. I will come for you if he wants to talk.”

 She reached for his hands. “Thank you.”

“Your hands are freezing. Catherine, you should go inside.”

She smiled at him and squeezed his hands. “Good night, Vincent.”

                                                                         ****

A day and a half had passed and David still had not come out of his chamber. Hearing a noise he looked up to see Vincent standing in the entryway.

“I’m not really in the mood for visitors, Vincent.”

“Yes, I understand. I just came to let you know that Jonas was here. He’s worried about you.”

“I don’t want to see him.”

“That’s what I told him. He asked me to give you a message.”

David looked up again and waited.

“He wants you to know that Karen wasn’t there looking for you.”

“Then what was she there for?”

“He told me she figured out that he was keeping secrets from her. She was afraid that he was having an affair. When she found him there with Catherine… she assumed…”

David looked up in surprise. “Do you think he is telling the truth?”

Vincent nodded. “Catherine told me the same thing. I don’t think Catherine would lie. She is very worried about you too.”

“I can’t face them... my family. I’ve been dead to them for 15 years. How can I ask them to forgive me for what I’ve put them through? I don’t deserve it.”

“They love you, David. They want you back. People that love us… they tend to forgive us whether we deserve it or not.”

David looked up at Vincent. He had a feeling Vincent wasn’t just talking about him.

“Jonas left something for you.”

“What?”

Vincent reached outside the chamber entrance and picked up the cello case.

“Isabella?”

“Jonas said she belongs with you. He didn’t want you to be completely alone.”

David came toward Vincent and gratefully took the cello from him.

“Karen sent you a message too.”

David waited.

“She said to tell you she loves you and it’s time to come home.”

David lay the cello case on the bed and opened it. He reached out to Isabella and picked her up.

As Vincent walked away from the secluded guest chamber he could hear the sad cello music that David had played in the park. He stopped and leaned against the tunnel wall with his eyes closed and let the beautiful music seep into his soul.

                                                                         ****

It had been almost a week since Catherine had heard any word from Vincent or Jonas. She knew that she would hear from someone if there were any developments.

It had been a twelve hour day Catherine was relieved to finally be home after a twelve hour day. It was Wednesday and she had survived the week so far. Only two more days until the weekend, she kept telling herself. It had been a long day at the office and Joe had insisted that she not take any work home with her. He was a hard task master, but even Joe knew when enough was enough.

A long soak in a nice warm bubble bath sounded like just what she needed. As she was taking off her coat she noticed something on the floor just inside the door.

Picking it up a note, she read,  Dear Catherine,

Her heart skipped a beat when she recognized Vincent’s handwriting. She wasn’t expecting to see him until Friday night.

 We’ve been invited to a special performance.

If you can make it, meet me at the threshold below at 8:30.

                                         Vincent

With a sudden burst of energy, Catherine looked at her watch. 8:00. If I hurry, I can make it, she thought frantically.

She was surprised when she got to the bottom of the ladder that his arms didn’t reach out for her. Where is he? she wondered. Looking around the opening at the threshold she spotted him there, leaning against the bricks. He was so deep in thought that he hadn’t even heard her approach.

Reaching for his arm, she whispered, “Vincent?”

He jumped, startled by her sudden appearance.

“Is everything all right? Are you… all right?”

He could see the concern in her expression, hear it in her voice, feel it clearly. “I’m sorry, Catherine, you startled me. I was lost in thought. I didn’t hear you coming.”

She looked at him searchingly. “I could see that. What were you thinking about?”

Vincent held out his hand to her and shook his head. “It can wait, Catherine, we have somewhere to be.”

As they were walking, she asked, “This is all very mysterious. Where are we going?”

“You’ll know soon enough.” He paused before he said, “Trust me.”

There was something in his voice that made her pause. She stopped walking and he turned back to face her.

“What is it?” he asked.

Looking at him intently, she said, “I do… trust you, Vincent,” she said.

He nodded slightly. “Then come… please, Catherine.”

As they entered their private music chamber Catherine was confused. “The concerts in the park have ended for the year, Vincent. Why are we here?”

“David has gone back above to the apartment above Jonas’ shop. Jonas said that David has reconciled with his parents.”

“Oh, Vincent” she breathed. “I’m so relieved.”

“Come, sit down.” He had prepared the small vestibule against the cold night air. There was a brazier burning in the side tunnel and a thick covering of blankets and cushions on the floor. As she sat down he wrapped a thick woolen blanket around her shoulders and pulled the blankets up over their feet.

It was only a couple of minutes before they heard the sound of quiet voices above them.

“We aren’t going to get arrested for this are we?” she heard Karen ask.

They could hear Jonas laughing. “What would they charge us with, My Love? Malicious Musicality?”

She laughed. “You laugh now, Smart Alec. See if I’ll bail you out.”

Jonas laughed again. “You will be right there by my side, Woman, and you know it. We will be the Bonnie and Clyde of the music world. Who would ever suspect that in our violin cases we are actually carrying violins?”

“All right you two… Isabella and I are ready,” David said.

“Wait, where are Vincent and Catherine? I thought this concert was for them.” Karen inquired.

“Oh they’re here. I’m not exactly sure where, but they are here,” David said. “Vincent and Catherine… this is for you, wherever you are. This is my way of thanking you both… for helping me find my way home.”

“Hear, hear," Jonas exclaimed.

Catherine gasped as she heard the beginning measures of Bach’s, Prelude, Cello suite no 1

 https://youtu.be/poCw2CCrfzA

“Oh, Vincent! It’s Bach. I love Bach!” she whispered excitedly.

Vincent put his finger to his lips and then closed his eyes and leaned his head back against the tunnel wall. Catherine lay her head against his chest and closed her eyes.

As the music went on, Vincent and Catherine let it carry them along as they each became lost in it and lost in each other…

After a while Vincent realized Catherine was shivering. “Are you cold, Catherine?” He asked as he began to tighten the blankets around them.

She looked up at him smiling and shook her head. “No, I’m fine.”

“But you’re trembling.”

“I know I… I can’t help it.” She looked into his eyes. The truth of all her love was there, plain to see. “It’s just so beautiful… so perfect… I don’t want it to end.”

Smiling at the beauty of the music, she said, “I’m happy for David and his family.”

“You never gave up on him, Catherine. What makes you like that?” he wondered.

Surprised at the question, she replied, “You, Vincent.”

He shook his head. He couldn’t accept that it was true. “No… there is something in you… something strong.”

“I see that in you, Vincent… I feel that from you… and it gives me strength.”

“What do you mean?”

Trying to explain, she said, “You haven’t given up on Rolley. You never gave up on Cullen or Mouse or Devin. You didn’t even want to give up on Mitch Denton. How could I give up on David and Isabella when you never do?”

Vincent turned from her in exasperation. The guilt that had been eating away at him for months came welling up within him.

Suddenly worried, she asked, “What is it, Vincent?”

“You’re wrong, Catherine. I did give up! Can you ever forgive me?” he pleaded.

Catherine was confused. “Forgive you? For what?”

He looked at her with tear filled eyes. “For giving up on you… for giving up on us… for turning my back on you when you were in such pain? You asked me to forgive you for doubting… but it was not you who doubted. It was me.”

“Vincent, I’m not sure I…” Catherine shook her head.

“I’ve gone over that night again and again in my mind, Catherine. Asking myself… Did I send you away because I was a coward? Because I was afraid that you would eventually leave me anyway? Or was it because I was afraid I wasn’t strong enough to bear your pain as well as my own? Knowing that our relationship was causing you pain was so overwhelming to me. What I did to you that night was wrong, but I still don’t know what was right. I’ve tried to think of what I should have said, what I would say and do differently if I had the chance to have that conversation again.”

“Vincent… stop… I don’t want you to… feel this way. I thought we had put that behind us. Have you been torturing yourself about it all these months?”

He didn’t need to answer. She could see by the pain in his eyes that he had.

She sighed deeply. “Vincent… we should have talked about this long before now. If I had known what you were thinking…” She sighed again. “I’m not sure you understand the pain I was in… I didn’t understand it fully myself at the time. You were not the cause of it. Vincentit wasn’t your fault…” She shook her head. “I didn’t really want you to fix it… deep down I knew that you couldn’t… I just needed to share it… to talk to someone about it… but I couldn’t talk to anyone about it because I…” She paused.

“Because you made a promise,” Vincent whispered.

She nodded.

“… and you would never betray my trust,” he said.

She nodded again.

He took a big heaving breath.

“I just needed you to hold me for a little while, Vincent… until it passed. I should have said that instead of… the things I said.”

Still not ready to forgive himself, Vincent continued. “Catherine, I told you from the beginning that you were safe with me… that you could trust me. You gave me your heart and I withdrew mine when you needed it the most. You placed your broken heart in my hands. I told you that one either moves toward love, or away from it and then I moved away from it. I’m sorry. Now I feel as if you are afraid to trust me fully with it again.”

“That isn’t true, Vincent. I do trust you.”

“No.” He shook his head in doubt. “No, Catherine, something is different… you came back… but our bond… our connection… it’s different… not as strong as it was before… not as easy to read. I feel as if you are keeping a part of yourself from me. That I have lost your trust.”

Catherine was speechless. He was looking into her eyes, searching for the truth. She looked away and then she looked back. “Yes,she nodded. “It’s true… I have been… trying to keep a part of myself from you. I should have known you would feel it. I’m sorry, but, Vincent, it wasn’t for the reason you think. I do trust you.

“Then… why? Catherine?”

She was reluctant to explain it to him, but she couldn’t deny the pleading in his voice.

Finally she said, “Father told me that our relationship… is a tragic mistake… that I can only bring you pain. I’m afraid that he’s right. That is what I did that night. I’m trying control my feelings because I don’t want to cause you pain, Vincent.” Her voice became a whisper. “I almost lost you, because I was in so much pain. It was too much for you… too much to ask. I’m trying not to burden you with my emotions.”

“By carrying this burden alone? I don’t want that, Catherine.”

“I don’t want you to shut me out again. I don’t want to lose you, Vincent. I don’t want to be a wedge between you and Father either… please understand.”

“I told Father that you were in great turmoil. He told me that he feels as if he is standing on the bank of a raging river watching me try to swim across.”

“Yes.” She nodded. “It must be hard for him. He loves you. He doesn’t want to see you hurt.”

“I told him that you are trying to swim across that river as well, Catherine, you face the same dangers and you have done it with great courage, greater courage than I.”

“That isn’t true, Vincent.”

“Yes,” he insisted. “Yes it is… The toll on you is greater.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Because, Catherine… the sacrifices that you have had to make… that you continue to make… so unselfishly…” he looked at her with sorrow. “You make them all alone. I have not had to sacrifice friendships to have you in my life. I have not had to live a double life filled with secrets and lies.”

“I have not had to do those things either… I chose to do those things… I freelychose. There is a difference. ‘I am the master of my fate, Vincent I am the captain of my soul [3].

He smiled a little. “When all else fails you resort to poetry?” he said.

She raised her eyebrow and smiled a little too. “Well… it is after all a language we both understand. Shakespeare may have known everything, Vincent, but William Henley was pretty smart too. My point is… that I didn’t come back to you because I had to. I came back because I chose to… Vincent… I chose you.”

“But, Catherine, on my side of the river there are many people hoping and praying for my safe passage. On your side of the river… there is no one praying… no one watching… to see you safely across.”

“There is you,” she softly pointed out.

He nodded. “Yes, Catherine… there is… only me. And when the waters became too rough and you felt as if you were drowning, I…” He lowered his eyes and his head in shame. “… I turned my back and left you to swim alone… after all that you have done for me… not to mention that I left you alone up there in the park late at night… after what happened to you there… how can you even look at me? And then… when you came back… you came flying back into my arms… and asked me to forgive you… When you hadn’t done anything wrong to forgive.”

She put her hand under his chin and lifted his face so that he could see her. Looking into his eyes, she said, “Either had you, Vincent.” They stared into each other’s eyes for a long time. Finally she spoke. “Vincent, we are both… just trying to do the best we can. Don’t you see? You and I… we both came to each other… ‘broken’… in our own unique ways. In a way… we are like David and Isabella.”

He nodded slowly. “Yes, without you my life is meaningless.” Just the thought of life without her made his heart tremble.

“And without you, Vincent… there is nothing, at least nothing that really matters” she said, “Our hearts… our souls… have become entwined, Vincent. If we try to separate them now… I’m afraid… we might die… at least the best parts of who we are will. That’s what it felt like when you walked away from me… when you closed the portal and left me standing there. It felt like I was losing the best part of myself.”

He pulled her into his embrace and rested his face in the softness of her hair. “Oh, Catherine!” he breathed. “Then what are we to do?”

She sighed there as she listened to the steady beat of his heart… her heart. “The only thing we can do, Vincent. We swim that river together. We keep moving toward love… together. Whatever happens, Vincent, we can’t give up on each other.”

As his arms tightened around her, he could feel her love… her trust… pouring into him. Its sweetness was more overwhelming than her pain had ever been.

Above them David began to play Bach’s Arioso from Cantata BWV 156 - Adagio 

 https://youtu.be/xueopsTHesw

and the music surrounded them once again.

As it carried them away, Vincent closed his eyes and silently thanked ‘whatever gods may be’, for the courageous, ‘unconquerable soul’ that was resting in his arms.   

                                 

                 [4]                       

                      

… If you love something, set it free.

If it comes back to you, it’s yours.

If it doesn’t…  it never was…

 

****

 

 

Many thanks to the ladies of the yahoo discussion group for your wonderful conversations and amazing insights that make me think deeply and look at things from different angles, and for helping me keep the logistics of my story in sync with canon. I was asking some seemingly random pointless questions, but you answered them willingly anyway.


 


[1] All of the cello jokes used in this story came from http://www.cello.org/heaven/silly/jokes.htm No copyright infringement was intended.

[2] Purfling is a narrow decorative edge inlaid into the top plate and often the back plate of a stringed instrument. Inexpensive instruments may have no purfling and instead simulate the appearance with paint.

[3]  This is a reference to “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley.

[4] This image is a digitally altered screen cap.

 

~

Illustrations supplied by the author

 

 

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