Iron Behind the Velvet ~ Chapter 46

By the Surprise of Its Own Unfolding 1

Someone ...

He knew ... awareness ... without recognition, the moment of even that cut short by the silver fracture of the black mirror. The gravity of his commitment pulled him deep ... away ... not so much below as ... within.  Whoever skirted the gypsum shore would dodge a buckled pack, might bend to the muddle of his clothes; but whoever waited, whoever watched for him would see nothing more than the stir and spume of the lake’s cleaving.

A creature of air and dry land, he was surprised anew by what he, in his most private thoughts, imagined as the water’s acceptance. At the basin of the falls, at the Mirror Pool ... here ... as he slipped through the cool silk, fingers of warmth dabbled at his skin, luring him deeper where insistent palms mapped the hardscape of his body, held him close with welcome, with desire. The science of it he understood, but the drab explanation – hot springs and vents, the measure of atmosphere and pressure – only clouded the truth: that with his half-opened eye, he saw crystalline stars, that at his temple came the sibilate welcome, Yessss ... that in this place of wave-rhythmed harmonies, he was free.

water being
Once that last boyish summer – a vision never shared – first in from the chute, arrowing in the same long trajectory, he saw, emerged from the shadowy edge, a being so diaphanous, so immaterial ... He stopped the scissor of his legs and drifted, borne by the current furrowed far beneath the surface. Surely only light, he thought. An impossible dance of light. Her pale hair and paler dress a rippling veil; her parted lips, her coal eyes beckoning ... she was so sadly, desolately rare. 2 The need to touch her burned in his chest, but before he could find her dim hand, he was buffeted by an underwater gust, and when he looked again, she was gone. Seconds later clammy fingers closed around his ankle. His lungs emptied, their desperation rocketing him upward. He gulped the sweet air of his world, whipped the hair from his eyes. Noah bobbed up nearby, sputtery with laughter, pointing at him. Stuart’s shout and splash ricocheted off the cavern walls.

Now he kicked twice for ascent, breaking the still plane with a quiet gasp. With his arms and cupped hands, he fanned the water.

“You!” a voice exclaimed and he swirled toward the sound.

flowtone swell, The Mirador
If she hadn’t spoken, she’d have been invisible against the rock formations, her clothes shadow-colored, a sooty gray; her thick rope of hair braided strands of ivory and tea-stained lace. Wren scrambled from an overlook in the swell of flowstone – The Mirador, they’d christened it – and paced the chiseled shoreline.

“When you didn’t come up and didn’t come up! I heard a splash and saw some bubbles but then ... nothing. I was about to dive in! If I’d known ...”  She bent and braced her hands on her knees. Her shoulders heaving;. Then she raised her head and grinned. “Stuart told me you could do the length on one breath. I didn’t believe him though. He says you have the best power phase of anybody he’s ever raced, a great high elbow catch, and I should really study your form.”

He paddled backward into a sliver of shade and a cooler stream. Years had passed since their last competition, an unplanned match at the triple falls. Before Catherine, he realized. Just before. When Stuart found him, challenged him, he’d already swum an hour of fueled laps, unable to lose himself, a vague ambition burning, unquenchable ... and this time, this one time at least, he held nothing back. He won ... easily ... much to his opponent’s vociferous frustration.

Chuckled words bubbled out before him. “Stuart says a lot of things.”

She snorted. “He does, doesn’t he.” Already barefoot, Wren snapped the drawstring at her waist. “That crazy current, the warm one that snakes around. Are you in it?”

“It’s there. In the middle.”

A wisp of steam fog curled between them, a nearly straight trace end-to-end of the tapered pool. Across from her, scrubbed up against a wall of crystal spars, he spread his arms along the ledge. The air chilled his skin. He let himself sink chin-level in the water.


“I’m here,” he called, his voice louder than necessary.

Her thumbs hooked in the band of her sweats, she peered in his direction. “Oh,” she said, after a silent beat. Her hands moved to the zipper of her jacket, but she tugged it higher instead of open. “I don’t, ummm, have to get in. Now. But just so you know ...” She laughed, a soft trill. “I’m wearing a suit.”

“And I’m ...” He glanced toward the entry.

Wren followed his gaze. “Pretty far from your clothes?”

“That ... and without a towel.”

“Well, you’re at my mercy then. I’ve stashed a couple extra, but I should make you show me your ‘fly first.” She started at her own words. “I mean your stroke! I’d like to see it.” She squealed and fanned her face. “No, no! Your butterfly! Oh, dear God, Vincent! Help me out!”

Help you out!? I’m– He expected a wash of embarrassment, perhaps the brush of her wariness against his own, but it was impossible to mistake her enjoyment of their situation, her ease with him. He liked her, though he’d expect to like anyone Stuart loved. Why would it – he – be different for her? For others chosen by the hearts of his friends? By ... Catherine. He shivered, not from the cool cove waters, but from the realization that perhaps ... it wasn’t.

Wren’s laugh, deep rumbly notes, resounded in the chamber. Just for a moment, he considered gliding into the channel, building speed for a somersault at the wall of the lake, imagined the in- and outsweep of his arms, the undulating drive of his body, first his shoulders, then his hips rising ...

Hey! he heard – and it was Stuart’s rumble, close, as if he hunkered just behind him, his laugh an octave lower but so like Wren’s – You’re stone-buck nekkid, pal, whatever that meant. And that’s my wife. From habit, he clamped his arm to his ribs, expecting a jab. He cleared his throat. “I don’t think, given its ... mechanics ... I’m prepared to demonstrate.”

“Oh my God,” she repeated. “Stuart will love this. I won’t hear the end of it. You wait. He’ll tell it at Thanksgiving dinner. At Winterfest!” She shook her head. “All this ... freedom down here. Really, it’s a lot to get used to. Please, Vincent, finish your swim.  Were you headed back to camp? I’ll go with you, carry something.”

“I was. But you ...”

“I can come back later or in the morning. I don’t have court ‘til ten tomorrow. Use my towels. I’ll wait for you. Outside.”

cavern pool
A half-lap to the end of the pool warmed his muscles and the length, taken at full crawl, was a rejuvenating meditation. The last vestiges of his headache shimmered away; the rock dust cleared from his lungs. Long repressed to a dull, red ache, the gash across his cheek kindled to fire, but in the sluice of healing minerals, the sting soon ebbed. A last knife into the deep stirred the sand, but he arched away from the swirl of glitter and silt, lured only by the velvet caress ... Catherine.

Three thick towels were stacked with his clothes and he used them all, after he dressed, wringing each one in his grip, spreading them on the rocks to dry. When he hoisted his pack and the crate, the tools clinked and clattered together, their purpose and his duties sharpened into focus, nearly a surprise.

His torch was righted in a holder at the top of the stairs and still there, still used, the Arrow Rock pointed left. He ducked through the Needle’s Eye, wove the short maze of The Knees into Wall Street. The wedge-shaped cavern was just as magnificent as when they discovered it, its ceiling just as soaring, but a string of electric lights burned there now, a pick-off he knew from the main corridor’s line, a corridor not one hundred feet away through an inconspicuous pass, their secret lands – had they ever truly been – no longer so. He snuffed his flare in a sand trough, stowing it with a cache of others in a tall urn.

plumbing parts, copper candelabra
Wren lounged in The Hammock, a smooth scoop of stone opposite The Stacks. The niche was brightened by yellow tapers studded in an awkward copper candelabra, one he’d made himself from scavenged pipe fittings and plumbing parts.

“I sat in that very place,” he began.

“And read by this very light,” Wren finished, closing her book. He bent his head to read the title and she flashed its cover – What to Expect When You’re Expecting – before she scooted to the edge of the recess.

It was only polite, no less than he’d been taught, and instinct – he held out his hand to her aid. So new she was to their family, her home with Stuart so far from his daily occupations, he hardly knew her. Certainly he’d never touched her, not even in welcome or congratulations, and there was an instant when he thought to withdraw his offer, to retreat before she could recoil. And she did hesitate; after curling her fingers with his, she did frown ... before she leveraged against his weight and popped to her feet. He released her and stepped back, that warm sheen of confidence, of ... normalcy ... drying on his skin, dulling him.

Four tiered ledges were jammed with books and she wedged hers in at one’s end, a shaky smile on her face. “I have three copies,” she said. “No, four. One here, one in our chamber, one in my briefcase to read at work, one in the apartment. What happened to your cheek?”

“A scrape, a ... nothingness. How are you feeling?” he remembered to ask.

“Iffy, sometimes,” she said. “When I get up too fast, like, uh, umm, like a second ago, out of The Hammock.” Her face paled and she swallowed hard. “Erg.”

“Should you sit?” Chagrined that her discomfort granted him some measure of relief, he assigned himself an evening session of self-examination. A longing flared, a necessitude, and though it died back, was not put out – to admit his diffidence, to explore his nature, learned and inborn, with someone, someone not Father. Not ... not even Catherine. He let down his gear and grabbed up his cloak, folding it to a cushion. “Here.”  And he reached for her again, took both her hands and steadied her to a padded seat on the pack. “Water ... shall I get some for you?”

Ehhhh,” Wren muttered, her head bowed.

“Crackers? Do you have ...” He searched the pigeonholes and crannies for emergency rations, wishing he could blink back into existence their once well-stocked stash. “I don’t ...”

Mmmmm--mmmm.”  She held up one finger, then rocked forward, her elbows on her knees, her forehead in her palms. Helpless to do anything else, he watched her.

Minutes passed. Crouched at her side, he offered what he hoped was a reassuring touch. “Shall I send for Stuart?”

She shook her head – barely. “Gingerroot?” she mumbled. “Peppermint?”

Is she teasing me? Now? He wasn’t sure, but as if the possession were possible, he patted his pockets.

Grruummphh.” She flapped her hand, dismissing ... relieving ... him, but when he didn’t rise, she opened one eye. “I’m all right,” she said, showing him a cautious smile. “Really, I’m fine. Or I will be. It’s ... it’s passing. One minute, okay?” She caught her breath. “Maybe five.”

He nodded and pushed to his feet. If she were Catherine ... what would he do? He slammed into the question, his hands flat, his cheek turned against the cold stone wall of it. No picture materialized through the haze suddenly clouding his vision or past the queasiness that made him breathe so shallowly and through his mouth. Something fluttered ... though if he’d tried, he couldn’t touch the place ...

I could ... read to her, he decided, crossing to the library shelves. Yes. A reassuring passage from her manual. But as he plucked at the volume, he cast a last look over his shoulder. Wren sat tucked around her distress, alone with it. No, he realized. Private with it. Protective, determined. Willing. He pushed the book flush and waited, careful not to pace.

Wall Street cavern
With Stuart’s the deciding vote, they’d once debated the name of this place – The Bellows, he’d suggested; Wall Street, Noah proposed. He’d never seen the avenue except in pictures – still had not – but the analogy fit. From where Wren rested, the narrow path through the high, slotted crevice rose and fell, switchbacked and flattened as did many a topsider’s fortune. Noah’s was a good choice, the best; his friends perplexed by his. And likely only he could feel it, hear it. At times, a rush of air like an indrawn breath breezed past, spiraling to the far reaches of the ceiling, held there ... its release a warm purr. He imagined it the carrier of the singing wind through these northern tunnels, the powered source of the Whispering Bridge of home. He heard it now, its voice just separate from shadow, from silence, a voice neither Wren’s nor Catherine’s. Be here. Be still.

And in time, Wren blew out a long and grateful “Ooooooosh.”

“Better now?” he asked.

“Weird,” she said, looking at her shoes. She tapped one toe, then the other. “It comes; it goes. It’s supposed to be a good sign. The book says it’ll likely be gone altogether soon, but I hear some awful stories. Maybe below ... mornings, evenings ... get mixed up. OH!” She gulped and bent over crossed arms.

Leaping to her, whisking her up he knew was ... unnecessary ... and yet ...

“No, no. I’m good,” she said, though he’d not spoken aloud. She straightened, her gaze soft, inward, on intimate landmarks known only to her. “Yep. Almost good to go.”

“Until then ... how might I ... ”

“Talk to me. That helps. Tell me a story, one about you and Stuart and Noah.” She touched the back of her hand to one cheek, to the other. “All those books. Were they your favorites?”

He studied the tattered spines – browned, brittle paperbacks, tooled cloth and leather bindings. The Riddle of the Sands, Captain Blood, The Man Who Would Be King. Verne and Burroughs and Sir H. Rider Haggard. “Our imaginations knew no bounds.”

“Tell me the truth. The Odyssey? Moby Dick? Did you really, really like those? I mean, Robert Howard, all his Conans? I get that, but the Aeneid? Beowulf?

“Father sent those along.”

“Did you read them? Wait ... was there a test?”

He shrugged and nodded. “The others, we, umm, collected.”

“Sounds like a story in itself,” she said and they both grinned. She pointed to the shelves. “The Decameron. Remember that one? Jacob’s idea ... or yours?”

“It’s here?” He scanned the rows again. He remembered – of course he did – the book purloined from Father’s library, secreted in his frayed carpetbag until he arrived at Noah’s, their passing of it hand to hand behind his mother’s back into the knapsack of treats she’d readied. Bawdy, they’d heard it described. Banned. Finding it, when they settled around the campfire, the covers opened at last to the first page, seriously disappointing. They’d stuffed it in among other, more accessible stories and when he walked home at summer’s end, he left it behind, forgotten. But Father had noticed the absence – the copy from the turn of the century, gilt lettering on still-supple burgundy cowhide and, in Father’s final word, valuable – and he’d been sent back, but it was not to be found. Neither Stuart nor Noah confessed to its whereabouts, though Noah asserted that it belonged in the abyss.

Wren laughed at his tale and he was thankful color petaled her cheeks again. “I did a month of extra Latin translation,” he continued. “Plus an essay on the two-fold character of borrowing – the take and the return.”

“Imagine Jacob’s delight to have it in-hand again.”

“But I paid for it, long ago. And I shouldn’t wish to provoke an old ... exasperation. It’s best to leave it here, I think. It’s been safe enough.”

Wren rose and reached back for his cloak. She shook the creases free. “Uh oh,” she said. “You’ve got a big rip. Want me to mend it? Stu’s mom gave us her old treadle machine. I could use the practice.”

He took it from her, refolding it into the crate, brushing at the shadow of a stain on the leather inset, on the satin trim of the hood. “It’s an old one,” he said, quick to sidestep the curiosity he saw in her eyes. “Are you, as you described, good to go?”

“If we go right now.” Her playful spark had returned, and not for the first time, Vincent thought her an exclamation point to Stuart’s solid squareness. “I’ll get the pack,” she said, bending to it.

“It’s heavy. Wren, please ...” He hooked a strap with a fast hand and shifted into the harness.

“I can manage,” she protested. “I’ve carried heavier things before.”

cavern stairs out
“I’m sure you have ... and will again. But not this. Not today.” The crate settled again on his hip, he stepped back, letting her pass in front. Single-file they climbed the last steps, rounded the last corner, Wren reaching up, brushing two fingers to a groove worn in the stone before slipping through The Slice with ease. He maneuvered the tools and his shoulders past crags lower and rougher than he recalled and touched the same smooth place.

“We had good news today, from Kanin,” he said, once matched with her in the corridor. “The ... situation is containable. We know the priority of work now, where we should concentrate our resources.”

“Stuart did seem relieved. I'd just gotten in and he'd come home to change clothes, but he gave me the condensed version on his way out again. He wants to get as much done as he can before he has to go back to work next week.”

“We won’t leave until you’re secure. This concern – the uncertainty, the disruption – has surely colored your impression of our world. I’m sorry for that.”

“No, Vincent. Don’t be. The commitment, the efforts ... remind me of home.”


“You’ve heard of barn raisings, haven’t you? Harvest suppers? Those things really happen where I’m from. Anytime there’s an emergency, an illness in the family, neighbors pitch in. Us farm kids even had storm families, a home in town we’d go to if a blizzard closed school. We’d stay until our folks came for us, days, sometimes a week or more.”

“People looking out for each other,” he said and she nodded. “Is it beautiful, where you’re from?”

“The buttes and spires, the canyons – it’s a lot like here without the roof. But at night, you can’t believe the stars. And on the prairies ... the wisp-grass and flowers in the wind, the eagles dark against the sun ... I wish you could see it.” Her sigh, wistful at first, choked to awkwardness. With steepled fingers, she tapped her lips. “I’m sorry, Vincent.”

“Don’t apologize. Please.” He stopped and called her name and though she turned to him, her head was bowed, her fists tucked under her chin. “You must believe me,” he said. “I go west on your words, Wren. Without them ...” He spread his arms, erasing the thought. “With them ... I am ... unbound.” His head tipped in invitation, he beckoned her to follow. “Our friendship is just begun,” he said. “You need not watch what you say. And you must stop biting your lip. Truly ... you must stop.”

They walked in silence to the next junction, where Wren, after a stuttered step, chose the corridor not to her chambers but to camp. “You’re learning your way,” he said and the tension eased at the corners of her eyes, from the curve of her posture.

“When this is all over, you and Catherine will visit, won’t you?” she asked.

“We will. You two have much in common. You’ll be fast friends.”

“I hope so. Stuart misses you, Vincent. He told me the upside of all this worry is having you around again. Sounds like you had some really good times together.”

Good times. Yes. After Devin left, he’d not expected to smile again and that first summer, when he realized he was enjoying himself, he’d felt almost guilty. He’d been free here, his hours unscripted, his quiet spells unchallenged. Expected to do little beyond make up his own bunk, wash the dishes after breakfast or supper, once a week to make the rounds of the farthest dwellers’ chambers with bread and oranges and candles. Be polite and be careful were Stuart’s and Noah’s mothers’ only admonitions. Keep it to a dull roar after midnight, either father would demand. Stay together, Levya would remind them every morning. Be grateful. Laugh out loud.

“You know, there’re guest chambers,” Wren was saying. “Nice ones and never used, not far from us. You could make one a holiday house.”

“I’d like that.” And he would. He crossed the threshold of a room yet unseen, unclaimed, where nevertheless candle flame danced to a scrap of fluted melody and friends old and new crowded a laden table. “But when your baby comes, won’t you be moving above?”

“What? Why? Why would you think such a thing?”

“Your friends, your work. Your family, Wren. How will you explain ...” And if she could not, how might Catherine?

They were nearing camp and since Kanin’s return,  a portion of vigilance had relaxed. A burst of laughter echoed from a side corridor; footsteps sounded nearby. On the closest circle of pipes, short messages were softly tapped again. To hear her answer, to have it uninterrupted, he’d take a wrong turn, the longer round-about if necessary. His paced slowed, and hers.

“Remember, I haven’t been in the city long,” she said. “Just a couple years. People come and go; no big deal. Not like at home, where they let school out to watch somebody move in from out of town. And Mom’s not likely to surprise me with a visit. It’s not an easy thing to get from Sage Creek, South Dakota to the Bronx without a phone call or two, not to mention how hard it is for Dad or my brother to leave the ranch. When Mom comes, we’ll use the shared apartment over Dix’s place. That’s where she thinks we live. I’ve sent pictures. She knows it’s too little for her to stay over.” Wren chuckled. “She says we’re crazy to live there. If she knew the truth, she’d be happier for us, dollars to doughnuts. Anyway,” she continued, “a friend from work lives pretty close, and she volunteered to put her up. After that, well, I don’t know. Since it looks like the entrances are saved, maybe we’d pretend to move to Sal’s building. If we have to, we’ll find a little place of our own, with access. Woodlawn’s nice. Or maybe Bedford Park or Belmont. There’s Stu’s job to think about.”

“And yours”

“Oh, I’m taking a leave. A long one. I haven’t officially told anyone at work, just a few close friends there, Eimear and Zivah. Maybe Catherine knows someone, someone with child advocacy experience, because we’ll have to start looking for my replacement soon. I’m raising this baby Below.”

Eimear. At her name, he lost the rhythm of his stride and the crate banged against his thigh. Then what is all this?3 Once he countered Catherine's disbelief with the question, but there was no denying this confluence. The circumstance that drew them north had been urgent, its remedy necessary, and they would seal a dozen doors at the perimeter before the boundary was declared safe. Had not as many doors opened? He uttered a short gasp. I dwell in possibility and so ... what dreams may come …? 4, 5 Yours, Catherine. Mine. He would not stumble on the path now, so near the center. What steps were his, he would make.

“You’re surprised!" She misunderstood, and yet she didn't. "You shouldn't be" she went on. "This place ... made Stuart who he is. My baby will have grandparents just under Riverdale. Liz and Noah’s kids will be like cousins. They’ll shoot the chute together, Vincent. Scheme in The Mirador. I want her to have the education you have, even if it does mean reading Virgil on summer vacation. I want her to run these tunnels, to take for granted all the freedoms I’ve unlearned or never learned, to be touched by the magic of here.” She reached out, closing on the taut strap of the toolbox, turning him. “I want my children to know you, Vincent.”

He met her gaze. The corridors were lantern-lit and in their glow, Wren’s eyes were the color of ripe wheat. Once, blushing, his voice husky with wonder, Stuart had called her his Black Hills gold, describing her fine mettle belied by her pale delicacy, painting her warm like the the sun on a Badlands mesa, open as the Great Plains. Now, he sensed no fear in her. No fears dismissed or overcome or whittled away by familiarity. Simply none.

“I must ask you something, and Wren, you should ... feel free ... to be truthful. Tell me. How did Stuart prepare you ... for me?”

Click HERE for Chapter 47.


1. John O'Donohue. Fluent. from Conamara Blues, Poems. Harper Collins. 2001.
2. Edgar Fawcett. To T.S.S. from Fantasy and Passion. 1878.
3. When the Blue Bird Sings.  Season 2. Dialogue: Vincent.
4. Emily Dickinson. I Dwell in Possibility.
5. William Shakespeare. Hamlet. Act 3, scene 1. 1600.


Krista said...

Oh, Carole---I just love this. This chapter has magic in it, woven round and round. I love Vincent's predicament and Wren's "fly" jokes (and heaven knows I'll never think of the butterfly stroke again without remembering this scene. LOLOLOLOL) I love how much Vincent has changed (and how much he hasn't) and how he can now, finally, admit that he needs to talk to someone other than Father or Catherine. Hmmm...Martin, perhaps? :)

I love Wren; she fairly jumps off the page (or is it the screen?) as full and vivid and alive as any of your other original characters. Not every author can do that, but you can, and did. So...wonderful job, again and still. :)

-Krista :)

RomanticOne said...

I love how you are weaving people together - Eimear, Catherine, Wren. That sense of expectancy is still hanging in the air. Can't wait to see what happens next!

NYC Utopia said...

I hereby declare you living treasure, master of your art

NYC Utopia said...

My "Very Big Grin" didn't show up after my comment...

Carole W said...

Krista, you've really brightened the start of my day! Thank you. I'm pleased that you've noted the changes and the not-yets, even with the long posting intervals between chapters. V's not all the way there (but are any of us?) and hopefully the journey will hold your interest.

I want them to go on, relatively ageless, together forever. You're certainly keeping them alive and growing ever stronger and more bonded and freer - all good things. (and you're hard to keep up with, may I add!) :-D

Oh, hugs for liking Wren, for thinking her real enough. That is such a humbling compliment, one I'll never forget.


Carole W said...

Hi, R1! Expectancy ... yes, I promise, finally, the big action is fixing to begin. I know I've threatened that I'm making the turn toward the end for a while now. Bless you for continuing to read to see if I ever really mean it. :-)

The spiral narrows. Soon some of these people will be in the same room with each other. Some might make good use of one of those guest rooms!;-D

It's always great to hear from you. Thank you so much for reading. You're thinking about the convention in NOLA next year, right? It's not so far away from you ...


Carole W said...

Oh my! Claire, you sweetheart. You know that made me just about start weeping. You're way too good to me, but thank you and hugs for it. I love your very big grin and I'm glad you made sure it was delivered.

counting the months 'til next July!


SandyX said...

Ok, I have to admit that I had a hard time concentrating on anything in the first part of this chapter except the fact that Vincent was all nakey in that water! Nakey and swimming around ... [sigh]. I wonder if Catherine could sense what he felt there in the lake.

I saw your comment in the sidebar about hints of things to come. How about this one? "insistent palms mapped the hardscape of his body, held him close with welcome, with desire" Hee.

The image I love and want very much for him (them) is this one - "candle flame danced to a scrap of fluted melody and friends old and new crowded a laden table." I think there will be magic in that room when all these people who are so obviously fated to share each other's lives finally find their way to the table.

And I agree with Krista about Wren. She's wonderful. I hope we'll get to see lots more of her.

Thank you, Carole.


Carole W said...

Sandy, I just love the word Nakey when referring to Vincent particularly! It's just so descriptive - and implies sort of a party, you know? Not just him regularly unclothed.

Hmm, that's a good question about Catherine's sense of him in the water.

Oh, you! You most definitely win Top Sleuth. I won't say if you found one or two of the eight. ;-) I was just talking to Krista, and darned if she didn't nail a couple more. Ya'll'll have to share the prize. LOL.

I'm gonna have to work hard to maintain any mystery. On the other hand, it's time to start revealing one after another, particularly the gauzy mapping of that hardscape …

Thank you for liking Wren. She will have another big scene in this story and I'm feeling the nudge for a new one that she could figure in. And thank you most of all for still reading and being so supportive and kind.


Gail said...

"I want my children to know you, Vincent."

Well, I was holding it together till that point. Aaahh!! Get out the Kleenex, please.

A phrase you used once: "warm-blooded." This is your Wren. I want to say that you simply MUST write her again after I/V (oh joy! oh pain!), but since that would be demanding and obnoxious, I will simply say that I dearly hope to see her in future - more than once, if possible.

This: "No, he realized. Private with it. Protective, determined. Willing. He pushed the book flush and waited, careful not to pace." Could we expect anything less from our Vincent? Yet so perfectly these lines delineate his gentle care.

And this: "He heard it now, its voice just separate from silence, from shadow, a voice neither Wren's nor Catherine's. Be here. Be still." This line is magic to me.

The confluence of people and events as Vincent's world opens wide and grows simultaneously more intimate; his commitment to self-examination; the ease and surprise in first finding an extraordinary friendship potential; the plain ol' truth about what we like in literature and don't; the growing strength to be more of an I because he is part of a we - and to sometimes be outside that "we"; the flutter of hope regarding previously unseen possibilities . . .

You have done it again, maestro. I am well and permanently hooked. As for that virtual hat I keep tipping - well, I might as well just leave the darn thing off.

Carole W said...

Gail, Gail! You made me grab the kleenex box! Thank you so much for this encouragement. I'm so glad you like Wren, glad you want to see her again.

And you noted one of my favorite lines from the chapter, about her willingness and privateness and V's knowing what's truly best to do. That just made me smile so big, your liking that. When it came to me, I just had this feeling. Not every line makes me feel squishy and wistful, but that one did.

But what you said:The confluence of people and events as Vincent's world opens wide and grows simultaneously more intimate, the juxtaposition of the I and the we and the flutter of possibilities … I was stunned. I'm not sure I'd said it even to myself in so clear a fashion, but you've described all I ever wanted to do with this story. I worry, you know I do, that it's wandered afield (and I'm starting to print it out tonight, to edit with the red pencil I know it needs) but when I read what you wrote, I put my head down on my desk in gratitude. Thank you so, so much.

I can't thank you all enough - Krista, R-1, Claire, Sandy and Gail - your words make me want to keep writing hard. I feel so lucky to have you all in my life.

See … kleenex.

~ Carole

Brandy said...


I'll just 2nd everyone's enjoyment of Wren.

Also - how DARE you start MORE characters, HOWEVER interesting, at this point in the game?!

Carole, love, sweetheart, brilliant authoress: we are PERISHING here!

Found you an odd poem, Kipling for a change - but it sounded like such a fun bit of nonsense, I couldn't resist; sounded a lot like Carrol! (Also, please don't take my criticisms seriously. ;P)

You Must n't Swim...
by Rudyard Kipling

You must n't swim till you're six weeks old,
Or your head will be sunk by your heels;
And summer gales and Killer Whales
Are bad for baby seals.

Are bad for baby seals, dear rat,
As bad as bad can be;
But splash and grow strong,
And you can't be wrong,
Child of the Open Sea!

Carole W said...

Ah, Brandy! I introduced Wren as a quiet aside, but she's there, many chapters ago. It's taken me too long to get from there to here, hasn't it. She's an important link to what's to come, some here in I/V and some in later stories.

Well, I can't have you perishing! :-) V and C will be in the same room together very, very soon.

Separation is something they do have to contend with, however, given their realities. It's only been 10 days since V left the community for the north (and only 1 day since V and C were together.) I have to keep saying that, and I'm sorry. I promise, next time I won't post a story until I'm done with it so it won't be such a drag on the psyche to read. And one day doesn't feel like 6 months.

I'm just starting the 3rd Outlander novel, Voyager. Claire and Jamie have been apart 20 years! I promise I won't do that to you.

Sweet little poem! Thanks for the grin of it!


NYC Utopia said...

I'd rather endure more of your "days that feel like six months", once in a bearable while, than be kept waiting for a whole year or two until a new story is completed!

Krista said...

What Claire said. :-) Seriously...I'm not known for my patience, but I love waiting for your chapters. :-) So there. :-P It doesn't matter how long it takes you to post between chapters, you know we'll be here waiting. :)


Carole W said...

Thanks, Claire and you too Krista. But dear heavens, I hope I don't undertake another two-year-plus novel any time soon. I try my own patience but bless you both for yours.

There's a saying in our parts - that somebody once turned a cow loose and cut the roads in after her, and that's why the roads here are so winding and loopy. My muse … doesn't particularly like that allusion. She just kicked me I think!

More soon, I hope.

Brit said...

Such Imagery! Your words took me to magical worlds. Magical worlds that I am glad I can escape to for only a short bit. : )

An impossible dance of light. HM that sounds magical.
1. Wren..immediately brought to my mind Renn Woods AKA Edie. (maybe because Edie is on my mind)You weren't thinking of her too were you? clothes, in water and having a conversation with another woman...if thats not comfortable, what is??

I loved seeing Wren becoming embarrassed. It was..a very sweet moment.
I sensed an under current of.."something else" but I can't quite put my finger on it...

"the undulating drive of his body, first his shoulders, then his hips rising..." I think I am going to have to fan my face here. ; )

"a voice neither Wren’s nor Catherine’s. Be here. Be still."
Someone Vincent has yet to meet? I am of course only inferring.. : )

Wren's morning sickness, her movements..seemed at too real for me. Made me remember how I was in pregnancy. Wanting to carry heavy things.. I am so glad and knew Vincent wouldn't let her carry a thing.

I feel such under currents.. something else going on.. perhaps it is just me. Since I am trying to write the continuation of my story, I could be off track.

So many connections! So many friends to be made! I absolutely loved this chapter!!

Wren-she is something else! a little magical like Eimear and Rose and so likeable!
Super job Carole. Super job!


Carole W said...

Hi Brit! I'd totally forgotten Edie's 'other' name, LOL, so no, I wasn't thinking of Renn Woods. At least, not consciously. In true Southern roundabout explanation, my daughter had a friend in middle school and her little sister's name was Wren. I always liked it.

Undercurrents … there are some, yes, but nothing weird with Wren and Vincent I promise! :-) She does have a purpose in the story and when I do some editing, I'll make her introduction a bit stronger. Now's her time in the story, but she's maybe too much of a surprise. One of the pitfalls of posting a story as I write it is sometimes I need to go back and make changes. (so far, they've been relatively minor)

But I'm glad you enjoyed this. When I started the chapter, I needed just a bit of story to take V from where he left Kanin to the time he meets up with Catherine later in the evening. She's busy with Eimear ( and that conversation will have to be honed and tweaked so it doesn't run on for hours and hours, or months and months!) but Vincent has to be doing something during that time.

I always imagine V needing quite a bit of exercise. Most men and boys do, all those ya-yas need working out and V's got more of those than most. I thought about having him get back to camp and finding a volleyball game about to start. Of course, he could play one side pretty much all by himself, and I had all sorts of ideas about how that could look, but then I saw some vids of swimmers doing the butterfly stroke and all of a sudden he's in the water - nakey.

It's great news that you're story is coming along. You'll send it to Tunnel Tales when it's done, won't you?

Thanks so much for reading and for your thoughtful comments. I really am grateful.


Brit said...

Longest post I have ever posted LOL!
Wren is a wonderful name. Unique for a person.
I write and post as well so I understand what you mean.
The undercurrents I suppose I am sensing are the ones everyone else has sensed..MORE TO COME! That more is to be revealed, about Wren, about Vincent, for Eimear and Catherine.
Continue writing and may the distractions be still : )
for they never are for me lol.
Thanks again for such loveliness.

Krista said...

And here we are again...the last of your new (old) chapters. Where are you taking us next, I wonder? :)

There are so many gems here---nekkid Vincent (*fans self*); the "fly" joke (I'll have to tell my husband about that one sometimes; as a swimmer, he's sure to love it); Vincent's empathy of Wren's morning sickness and awareness of the faint fluttering she feels.

And then there's Wren herself. Like all of your original characters, I'm sure one day I'll start wondering where they are in the episodes, sure that I've seen them onscreen. They are just that vivid and alive.

Great to see this chapter again...though as is so often the case, I don't often realize how much I've missed them until I see them again. :)

Great job,

Krista :)

Anonymous said...

Carole!!! Oh YAY!!! I've been WAITING for another chapter, all PRIMED for the rest of the conversation between Catherine and Eimear, and what I get isn't what I expected, but it is equally enticing and wonderful.

I agree wholeheartedly with all of the earlier comments from your readers about the how the growth of Vincent's intimate life has led to a blossoming of his more public, exterior life. Danger to the north that requires the closing off of doorways has instead opened a myriad of possibilities for new friendships, new opportunities to be topside on a regular basis IN SAFETY, and -- all the more miraculous -- the possibility of true brotherhood with another man who lives and understands the warrior code that up until now has been both necessity and torment for Vincent.


And now -- on to NEW CHAPTERS!!!

I'm positively TINGLING with excitement!

Best, Lindariel

RomanticOne said...

Oh, the possibilities! There are too many to count. I believe that Vincent's world is about to open up on a scale he never dreamed of. Can't wait to see where this goes.

Carole W said...

Hee, Krista - I'm glad you enjoyed the "fly" banter. And I'm very glad you feel Wren is worthy of the episodes of the show. You're very kind to me, always.

Yes, where will we go next. I suspect the question might well be, 'will we ever go anywhere'. I do promise, once again, to get on with the show, get the story to its end and get V and C in close proximity again. This day - only 24 hours! - has gone on and on! Enough already!

Thanks for sticking with me. I hope what I have coming up is satisfactory.


Carole W said...

R-1 - I'm so grateful for you! Thank you for being so patient with me and always encouraging me. It's all I could ever want to do - open Vincent's world, give Catherine a free and easy place to be.

That you're still here means everything. Thank you!


Carole W said...

Lindariel - your comments are the kind I must print out and read on days when I think it's all been for naught or when I cannot think of one decent word.

How you summarized is exactly what I wanted to convey - the torment and the necessity, the solace that sharing that state with another warrior will bring - the lightness of being. Now I have to get them together and open that last door.

I'm just so happy to read your post. You help me go on, you know. Thank you.


Anonymous said...

Hi Carole - my yahoo email has been messed up for some time and of course you can't get any yahoo help. I printed all the re-done chapters and will be reading from the beginning again, but wanted you to know that I haven't been in touch b/c of that and my other responsibilities. Think of you often; hope you are well; and will be in touch again.

xo, jitterbug

Carole W said...

Jitterbug! I'm so happy to hear from you. I'm glad to know you've been busy and not lost to me. It means so much to read your post here. I hope you're well and very happy!

I'll catch up with you in email soon. Until then,

OKGoode said...

This scene between Wren and Vincent is as rich and warm as that current in the water. The whole story is overflowing with wonders! I can't wait til there are new chapters!

Carole W said...

You do know how to make my day start off on a positive note! Thank you, Laura. I'm so glad you're enjoying Wren. I want her to seem natural and expected, a character we just didn't have a chance to meet in the episodes.

New chapters! I need to get busy - so many yet to write and I really would like to finish by WFOL.