I Carry Your Heart - Chapter 11

~ Off the Cliffs




The orchestra captured them for long minutes ... an hour. Catherine felt her heart take on the same strong and slow rhythm as Vincent’s and she began to lose some of the anxiety that had built within her, born of anticipation of the conversation she intended to have. The music moved from the Largo of the Concerto to the Allegro.

Vincent rested his head against the wall, one leg outstretched, the other drawn up in a manner that signaled repose, but she could feel the vibration of his thoughts. A few measures into the last movement, Vincent took her hand in his, for a moment pressing the back of it to his forehead. Then he turned her hand so that his fingers pressed into her palm, fingers she gently brushed with her thumb as his grip tightened.

“I will never escape my skin.” His voice was flat, without poetry. He dropped her hand and stood. “I cannot stay here.”

“Vincent! The concert’s not over. I want– Wait! Where are you going?”

He started down the passageway, stiffened to a halt and spoke over his shoulder, toneless, cold. “I need to walk. Come with me or stay. It is your decision.” He was a shadow in the shadows.

She jumped to her feet, out of habit bending to hide the cushions away, but with a yelp, she kicked them to the side and ran after him.

“Wait ... wait!

She caught up with him, but he was a man possessed with a direction of foot and of thought that allowed no companionable conversation. She could only hurry to keep pace and puzzle the turn of events, so very counterpoint to her plans. The way Vincent took was familiar and then not, circuitous, darting through side passages she’d never before taken. Without him she would be lost.

Through strange doorways opening into the dark and down many cold, carved stone steps, Catherine followed a pace behind, not so much in distance as in understanding. When they emerged onto a ledge above the falls, she was disoriented. At a different vantage point than they had shared in the past, it was a familiar place but with an opposing view. Her heart pounded.

“Vincent, please! You’re scaring me. What's the matter? Where did you go?”

He paced to the edge of the cliff, back to the entrance and again to the scarp. She knew his thoughts without benefit of their bond and edged into his path to deter his swift exit. A scowl on his face, he slowed, then stopped, his back against stone, his eyes closed. With a groan, he dropped his chin to his chest.

“Where did I go?" he repeated. "I went as deeply as I could, deep and into the dark where there is an ancient river. I went there ... to see myself mirrored in the black waters. I held out my hands ... these ... and I clenched these hands into fists until I drew my own blood. I shed my clothes. I lay at the water’s edge. The eddy of the river washed over me. I hoped, I suppose, to be smoothed and rounded by its power.

“And were you?” Catherine asked. “Smoothed and rounded?”

"I was in time ... comforted. I appreciated the dark and the silence; it knew me. I felt ... my aloneness. There were moments when the melancholy was so strong that I believed I could give in to it, that my heart would slow and then cease to beat, that I might even will it so ...

"Do not feel responsible, Catherine,” Vincent said, his head snapping up, turning to her as if she'd spoken. “This is not the first time I’ve made this journey. I made it before I ever knew you. Several times. You’ve seen what prompts it, when I am reduced to this base nature that I cannot explain even to myself, let alone to you or to any other, but which I must use to protect what I love, to which I must submit to ... survive.

“Before you came into my life, I was one kind of creature. Do not protest the word; it is fitting. My heart had never been truly engaged. How could it have been? There was all the before and then ... the after. Your love has granted me not just one monumental change, but thousands of changes large and small in the days we’ve been together. With each wave of the last incoming tide, it was as if a layer were washed away and at the end of it all, I can only say ... this ... is what I am. It cannot possibly be enough and yet it is ... too much.”

“You were coming to me,” she said, choosing her words with great care. “Jamie told me you were, when Father called you back.”

Vincent avoided her eyes. “I felt your … concern for me. Even as far down as I was, I knew you called me upward. Then Father conscripted me to leave again, to teach Mouse the ways of life and love – or perhaps the ways of avoiding it – and so, you were spared. There are many words unsaid between us today, questions without answers ... or with answers I cannot bear to hear.” His shoulders sagged with fatigue.

"We have some time, time now to be together," she whispered, the air between them fragile, shatterable.

"Yes, Father told me of your ... vacation."

"This is not a vacation, Vincent."

He remained silent, his eyes cast downward, searching the mists.

"Vincent, you know, don’t you? You can ask me anything.”

He gave no reply.

__________

A peal of laughter carried across the pools, riding the mists of the falls. The distance was too great for Catherine to discern the participants, but she could see two figures running along a lower ledge. One climbed the bluff and pushed off, jack-knifing toward the water. Another at poolside cheered the jumper on, applauding when a sleek head broke the surface.

“Who is that?” Catherine asked, walking closer to the edge, squinting to see.

“It’s Jamie,” Vincent replied. "And Mouse."

For a while, they stood, tentative, side-by-side in their customary stance, grateful for the diversion of playful abandon.

“Who’s doing the jumping?”

"That would be Jamie. Mouse isn't much of a swimmer, more a paddler. He likes his feet touching bottom.”

“Jamie came to see me while you were gone with Mouse. She told me what happened.”

“Father overreacted.”

"I think he knows that now.” The old fart, she thought. “Tell me. What did the two of you do? Where did you go?”

“Mouse is good company.” As the squealing and laughter grew louder, his lips just curved in a smile. “In conversations his viewpoint ... is unique. We hiked and camped, visited a few residents who live more apart. We inspected an old channel cut centuries ago through a lower level, where there are broad expanses of flat sand. Mouse is determined to build a playground. There’s a natural maze, a safe one, and he wants to put in a volleyball court.”

“Volleyball!”

“Yes. You sound surprised.”

“I’d like to see that. I’d like to see you play volleyball.”

Vincent straightened in mock affront, “Why Catherine, I have a mean serve. Everyone is afraid of it.”

She laughed and then sobered, struggling to assess the mood. In a strange way, regardless of the words and events of this last hour, they seemed to be as always – reverential, enamored of each other, perhaps a bit formal with the unexpressed conspicuous between them. She hoped to move this stalemate off its center, but doing so would require tact and not a small amount of grace, even luck. Perhaps here in this magical place, her years of schooling – her logical, progressive thinking – would manifest in a spectacular closing argument.

“You must have jumped off those cliffs a thousand times.”

“Oh, yes. When we were children, we would run down here after our last class of the day. The air would be filled with our flying bodies and taunts and bets. Father and the other grownups would grouse and forbid, but we ignored them and they allowed us to ignore them.”

“Do you remember the first time you jumped?”

“The first time ... yes ... it was Devin who issued the dare. I was young, maybe seven or eight and ... hesitant. It seemed so very high, though I had not climbed very far. But Devin made clucking noises and called me a chicken baby, a double insult that I could not bear. I was secretly petrified and wanted only to cling to the rocks and scramble back down. So when I jumped – and I did jump – I flung my arms wide and yelled some jungle cry worthy of Burroughs and belly-flopped into the pool. Devin had to fish me out and pound my back to get the water out of my lungs.”

“How long before you tried again?” she asked, sure of his answer.

“About ten minutes.”

“So you faced your fears?”

“Yes.”

“And was it worth it?”

“It was.”




____________________


Click Here for Chapter 12



8 comments:

Vicky said...

Always! It's always worth it! Go for it, Vincent.

Brandy said...

Wow. Vincent is so abrupt, so full of passion and pain...it's painful to read. And his moodswings are giving me whiplash.

I like Catherine's description of the mood between them. When I got the series last year, and sat down to watch it with my best friends, we'd take turns yelling instructions or corrections at the screen. Our favorite, and most often used, was "You missed," in reference to the many hugs and almost-not-quite kisses.

Carole W said...

Brandy, in my disorganized and behind-the-times references link, there's a youtube of Tommy Emmanuel doing Inside Out - which was my inspiration for this chapter and Vincent's mood.

He needs chocolate or something, doesn't he.

But I'm glad, oddly, that it is painful - that means I did my job adequately. He has such a hurdle to get over and change hurts - even the anticipation of change - and his decision to either move toward or away from love.

Brandy said...

Vincent's pain here is a good thing - transitions are painful, and this is one hell of a transition.

Thanks for the tip about the song - how lovely! Not a singer I've heard before. Fanfic is so educational! :D

Sonia Who? said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sonia Who? said...

Ch. 11

I agree with what Brandy said. You did a great job in showing Vincent's angst, and how passionate his emotions are.

Liked the story about Vincent as a scared child jumping off a cliff into the waters of the falls on a dare from his brother Devin. And how Catherine made him admit that facing his fear had been worth it.

Carole W said...

Oh, Brandy, Tommy Emmanuel is something else. He's really not a singer and he'll tell you that, even though I did use a song of his as inspiration here, but his musicianship ... I come away from every concert feeling as if I can do anything. He says he's in the happiness business and has his audience entranced and thrilled. He's all over youtube and all over the world in concert. One dream I have is to follow a year's worth of them, but he'd figure I was nuts. I wish I could get the job of his agent. Then my ooogling and fan-love would be justified.

But back to Vincent ... ahem ...

Yes, it is a transition. He must get off dead center, as he said himself, and go either toward love or away from it. I'm pleased you found it powerful enough to illustrate him.

Carole W said...

Thanks, Sonia! Vincent is so so so contained. What is in there?