I Carry Your Heart - Chapter 9

~ Here, Waiting




In the shattered door space she turned to look back at the ladder, obscured now by the strange shaft of light. Catherine felt no disquiet. And turning again to the light that beckoned her, she made her way toward love – toward him – deep and slow, resolute and firm of heart.

She was given a curious privacy and allowed to approach the living spaces unaddressed. Aware of the sentries passing her advance along on the pipes, hearing whispers, she called out, “It’s Catherine. Someone? Anyone! I could use a hand with my suitcase." She turned a corner, anticipating a younger greeter, and was surprised to find Mary leaning against the wall.

“Let me help you, dear. You’ve had quite a tramp and you must be tired from carrying.”

“Thank you,” Catherine said, releasing her bag to Mary’s grip. “I didn’t expect to see you. I figured Zach or even Samantha. Where is everyone?

“Word travels quickly down here and Father sent me to meet you first and tell you ...”

"Is something wrong?”

“No, no. Don’t worry. Vincent sent a message just a few hours ago. Pascal came straightaway with it. He and Mouse have ... completed their task and are on their way up and home. I’m guessing sometime tomorrow late afternoon, early evening at the latest, you'll see him.”

“Then tell me what?”

“Sweet child, I’m to tell you that Jamie has given us quite a thorough tongue-lashing, suggesting we have interfered in many ways. I’m to tell you, that we – all of us – are prepared to grant you and Vincent ... complete privacy ... until you or he tells us differently. I’ve prepared the guest chamber closest to his,” Mary said, with only the slightest quaver, “so you’ll have the space you need. Vincent has been so quiet for days now, so alone and adrift. He needs you close. I am not so old or so unseeing. I still hope ... I wish I could know for myself what binds the two of you.”

“When I started down, I was so sure, but now I’m a little afraid."

“I know, dear. I know.” Mary was quiet for the rest of the walk.

_______________

The guest chamber had been made special for her. There was a four-poster bed heaped with quilts, the topmost one, Catherine was sure, Mary’s handiwork. A bedside cabinet held fat, white, long-burning candles, a pitcher of water, a pottery glass. Two overstuffed, mismatched but tempting high-backed chairs flanked a small round table host to a bowl of shimmering marbles – all sizes and colors – as decoration. An ornate, silver cheval mirror stood to one corner, opposing a carved folding screen that hid a washstand and an old-fashioned beaten-copper tub. Soft, pale, braided rugs stopped the cold of the floors and a drum of fire warmed the space.

“Do you think you'll be comfortable here?” Mary asked. “Can you think of anything you need?”

“Courage and patience,” Catherine replied.

“Yes, waiting requires a great deal of fortitude. It can be a bit ... cold.”

“I’d like to talk to Father, if that’s all right.”

“I’ll tell him to expect you. Get settled. Come down to the dining room for a late supper. I know there are all sorts of delicacies hidden away. William has been working up new recipes this week, though I must tell you, some of them are unusually spicy. Anyway, Father stays up quite late and likes nothing better than an into-the-wee-hours chat.”

Catherine hugged Mary tightly and long. With a deep sigh, Mary stepped out of the embrace, holding Catherine at arm’s length.

“I’ll have to tell you the thing Jamie whispered in my ear after her ... lecture. She leaned close to me and said ‘don’t be a dope.’

Catherine clapped her hands to her mouth, failing to hold back a snort.

“I know,” Mary said. “I laughed too. It seemed absurd at the time, but I’ve spent every minute of every waking hour since trying to understand just what she meant." Mary patted her shoulder. “I’ll leave you, but you know where to find me. All right now?”

Catherine nodded and soon she was alone.

What time is it? As keyed up as she felt, how would she ever sleep? She unpacked her suitcase, distributing her toiletries and clothes to the proper places. There were soft dresses in the wardrobe and extra layers folded in a dresser drawer – comfortable, scented with lavender and vanilla. Compared to her office wear, these were the clothes of a princess.

________________

Father sat deep in thought in his big chair, slumped a bit, elbows on the arms and hands clasped, his head tilted against the high, upholstered back. In truth, he was thinking not about Vincent for a change nor about Catherine nor Jamie nor Mouse nor any of the myriad people Below.

He was thinking of Margaret.

He remembered the summer dress she wore when he first saw her, felt again the warmth of the breeze that carried her perfume to him. It was the scent of such exquisite promise. Lately, he’d felt the wounds of his heart healing over, a delicate and tentative healing to be sure, but nevertheless, a change. Their last, sweet seven days together had brought with them the blissful freedom of forgiveness.

He’d not had what he wanted, for which he still truly longed – the comfort of a life companion. He’d steeped himself first in anger and bitterness and then, after Vincent, an intense sense of purpose, almost priest-like in his care of the strange and wonderful baby. Oh, the mistakes he’d made as Father, as a father. No matter that he would counsel any other parent that, with love at the root of thought and deed, such mistakes are always forgivable, always rightable ...

In affairs of the heart? Father knew himself to be ... disheartened.

Vincent had told him a dozen times – such decisions were not his to make. Yet he'd opined and railed, perversely harassing Vincent with negativity. He’d been wrong. Catherine was not Margaret. He had been stubbornly resistant to her, dear God, even jealous of her, jealous of Vincent’s having ...

Catherine surprised him with a kiss to his brow, her approach unnoticed, deep as he was within a tangled memory. He startled. “Oh, goodness! Catherine! I was, apparently ... elsewhere and you are apparently ... here.”

She smoothed back his hair, an intimate gesture, and leaned in close to him. “Yes, I am here. And Father, I don’t plan to leave.”

“Catherine, dear Catherine.” Father took her hand in both of his. “Sit with me for a while, please. There are things I want to say to you.”

___

She sat opposite Father, silent, taking in all the now-familiar sights of the library. So often, she’d felt a bit less confident than she preferred here, even a bit young. Father was a very powerful presence, a man who had accomplished the extraordinary, but also a man who distrusted her. Perhaps she’d distrusted herself as well.

He was having trouble voicing his thoughts, making several attempts to begin a sentence, stopping after each drawn-in breath without a word. “Catherine," he said at last, "I have to tell you what Jamie called me and I have to tell you that I agree with her.”

“And that was ...?”

“She called me an old fart.”

She could not hold back her smile or next, a snicker, and then Father joined her, laughing out loud.

_____________

As Catherine made her way back to her chamber, she felt she’d claimed a prize, the bright brass ring. She’d heard the stories she’d dreamed of hearing – stories of a toddler Vincent, of the curious boy, the serious student. She often wished for photographs, but Father could, as Vincent always said, paint clear, colorful word pictures. It was at least a late-hours chat and one that soothed Catherine into believing she would sleep after all, but upon reaching her chamber, she paused in the doorway, then turned and walked deeper into the tunnel.

His chamber ... the physical place of her own transformation. Healed here, changed here. She stepped further in. How silent the room was! Candles were lit – another kindness of Mary’s, no doubt. Those lighting the stained glass glimmered in their muted fashion.

Hmmm. What is behind that, anyway?

She had time and solitude now to explore and question this place. She stood in the middle of the chamber desperately pulled. Vincent’s writing table called to her, heaped with books marked in mid-read, his journal in plain sight, closed on a pen. Rolled maps like giant straws filled an urn and pages of drawings and notes were weighted with various treasures cast off above. It took all her will to refrain from devouring his written words, even the less private ones, wanting so to know him at his core.

She opened his wardrobe and was awash in his familiar scent. Lifting the sleeve of a favorite overshirt to her face, she found it redolent of ice and fire, of cold mineral waters and wafting candle smoke underscored by some unnamed spice and musk. Her throat tightened and she swallowed against lost time. How could she ever have doubted?

The big bed drew her and she smoothed the pillows where he lay his head, imagining the dreams devised here by a young boy, the caprice of the teenager, the self-examination of the man. Longing overtook her, the desire to crawl under the covers and curl into the embrasure left by his weight nearly irresistible.

“Be well, Vincent.” She coupled her thoughts to his. “You carry my heart.”


______________________

Click Here for Chapter 10

5 comments:

Brandy said...

What fun to see the results of Jamie's "tongue-lashing" be received, no doubt quite abashedly.

You write Father's conversion with such kindness, how his love, first the romantic, crushed, then familial love (is there a word that is the opposite of filial?) for Vincent.

I caught your continued fairy-tale reference at "clothes of a princess." I'd forgotten this had such a lovely build up to Vincent. Were you nervous about writing him?

Carole W said...

Nervous? No, I don't think so. Well, let me revise that. I was wanting - at this point in the story - to create build-up. That sexual tension you mentioned earlier. And waiting to bring him up and back to Catherine was planned.

I am always apprehensive when writing strong male characters though. V is certainly articulate and relatively understanding of his own motivations – I agree, a swift kick to the shins might have jarred him to action - but a strong, actioned, virile, male man thinks and speaks and ... does ... differently than I would. It's a challenge to write male characters and I can only hope I've been able to differentiate my strong men from my strong women.

I guess the truth is - I'm nervous about writing about everybody! LOL. And take it seriously and type and type and delete and delete, as you know.

I'm loving all these comments, Brandy. You make me see the story new again.
Carole

Sonia Who? said...

Ch. 8 & 9

So that's where you got the title for this story. Lovely poem.

I too LOL when Father told Catherine what Jamie had called him and that he agreed with her. That was so funny.

Love it when Catherine sniff Vincent's shirt, taking in his scent. She sure has the hots for him.

You've done a wonderful job writing about all the characters, whether male or female. There's nothing you have written that made me thing, 'wait that's not something he/she would say/think/do.' Your descriptions and dialogues are just perfect.

Krista said...

I love the interaction between Catherine and Father here :)

One tiny thing, though---I think you have a typo. Where Catherine says she was not as "confidant" as she appeared, I think you mean "confident." A confidant is a close friend---which doesn't fit well in context of the sentence. ;)

Lovely writing, always and still.

-Krista

Carole W said...

Arrgh, typos. The bane of my existence. Thanks for the point-out.

And thanks for the comments today! I'm always pleased that a story will invite and withstand a re-reading.

C