And So It Begins...
Time moved on, and Catherine continued to remain at her apartment defiantly opposing Father’s demands that she should live below. Peter stayed out of it, though he was forced to act as mediator between the two something he was reluctant to do and took ages to impart knowledge from one to the other, so when he finally told Catherine, “Father had the marble panels fitted to Vincent’s grave.” It was in actuality two weeks after the event.
“Why didn’t he tell me?” Catherine wailed crossly, “I should have been there. I wanted to be there, to see them fitted. Have you been down to look?”
Peter took her questions one at a time, “I suppose he concluded that the trek would be too long and arduous for you, and no I haven’t been down to look. Now roll up your sleeve, I need to check your heartbeat.” Catherine did as asked revelling her arm to him until he was finished and satisfied that nothing was amiss. “So what are you doing with yourself these days?” Peter asked fishing into his bag for the required apparatus that he needed to examine her further.
“I’m still working if that’s what you mean. There’s nothing to show that I am pregnant, Joe suspects not a thing, all the same I applied for a desk job. Despite what Father assumes I want to take care of this baby too.”
“Yes I know honey, but I am inclined to be on Jacob’s side over this. You will be showing soon, it might happen almost overnight so how will you explain that to your boss when you walk in one morning looking as if you’ve over indulged at breakfast? Can you lie back, I want to listen to the baby’s heartbeat?”
Plumping up the pillows behind her, Catherine sprawled flat onto her bed and watched lazily as Peter listened to her baby. She remained quiet throughout, knowing he expected it, but when he was done she asked, “Next time you come, can’t you bring one of those monitors that lets me hear its heartbeat?”
“Actually honey, I can do better than that. I wasn’t going to suggest it till I was sure, but I think now would be the time to go along to the clinic for a scan. It is possible that we will see the baby’s sex, though Jacob is convinced it will be a boy and by the look on your face young lady I see that is the conclusion you have drawn also. So do0n’t be so surprised when you find out you will be having a daughter okay, not that I know of course, not until the scan that is.”
“Actually if its all the same to you, Peter I’d rather not know. At least that way I can keep a little of something to myself, and I don’t want Father knowing either. Chances are if it’s a son, he’ll have him named already. And there’s no prizes for guessing what that will be!” Catherine added dryly.
“You two should try to get along, you know. Both of you only want what’s best for the child. Jacob is quite stressed that you haven’t been near nor by the place since you told him you were pregnant. I know he’d like to see you if only to see for himself that you are well.”
“He knows where I live. Tell him to come up and see me sometime.”
“Now you are being particularly obtuse, Catherine and that is so unlike you. Whatever way you look at it, my dear this is Vincent’s child, and whether or not he resembles his father is unimportant because if he does not and you keep him up here, how will you keep him from falling in love and passing his genes on to some poor girl that has no knowledge of what she may conceive?”
Straightening her clothing, Catherine walked with Peter to the door, “You are speaking years ahead. And it doesn’t matter since I will tell him everything and I know you and father mean well, at least you do, but I need to have a say in this too. This is my body, my baby and my life. If I am to be shut away in tunnels as soon as the baby is born do you think I want to hurry and go live there before I need to? I know the score Peter, its just that if there is a slim possibility that the child does not resemble Vincent then I’d like to remain above with him. Thing is, I reckon Father will prevent my leaving the tunnels with him.”
“He can’t do that Catherine. Besides the community would soon be up in arms if he tried. Vincent didn’t know his mother, grew up without one, they wouldn’t bestow that upon his child given the opportunity to have him with you. As it is though Jacob has told no one that you are pregnant.”
That did surprise Catherine! She felt so sure that everyone would have known, one of the reasons why she had been peeved that no one had been to see her from the tunnels. “Why not?”
“I think he feels that is something you should do. And until he knows what you are doing he would have little to impart to them other than the facts. I do think however that knowing you are carrying Vincent’s child would do a great deal of good to a great many people Cathy, losing Vincent was the end of their world too. And they have heard such wonderful stories about Vincent as a child, I’m certain they will be delighted to know they will have the chance to see for themselves how beautiful he was.” Catherine nodded but said nothing, taking in his words until he told her, “Well my dear I must go. Oh by the way, Devin has been and gone and is coming back next week. He was devastated Cathy, I don’t mind telling you and angry with his father because Jacob seems to have come to terms with Vincent’s death already. Devin assumes that Jacob is heartless, of course he does not know about the hope of the grandchild and all it will present in the tunnels. Its like history repeating itself Cathy, honestly I never thought I’d see the day when Vincent would have a child. Didn’t even think it were possible.”
“I heard you thought he was sterile?”
“Well yes, but that was wild speculation. Having no one to compare him with, not knowing his history and not expecting that he would ever have a relationship with any woman let alone one so beautiful, led us to conclude that it was a possibility anyway.”
“Peter, are you busy? Do you have other calls to make?” Catherine had started to open the door and closed it again.
“I can always make time for you, but as it happens you were my last call for the day. What’s on your mind?”
“Do you think there was any truth in the claims Paraselcus made as to Vincent’s parentage?”
“I wouldn’t like to speculate. John Pater was a mad man I’d hate to think you might be carrying the grandchild of such a man. But then looking at the facts, Vincent too was mad at times. Both displayed a terrifying attitude when the mood took them. Its something I have questioned at length in the past. I’d say it was a possibility that’s all. But we’ll never know will we? Paracelsus is dead even if he could be believed alive.”
“Why would he say all those things though? Why did he continually try to have Vincent with him? Everyone assumes that Paracelsus was lying, but what if he wasn’t? What if he became mad because he was forced to give up his unique looking son to another man, a man that claimed the child as his no less?” Catherine leaned back against the closed door thoughtfully, it looked as though she were baring Peter’s exit, but soon moved aside to let him out when he reached for the catch to open the door. “We’ll never know Cathy, and that’s that. And it’s unimportant. Now stop fretting over inconsequential things and take a look at your diary and make an appointment for the clinic on the first Monday or Thursday morning that you can. That’s when I will be in. When you ring up make certain they book your appointment with me. And in the meantime, think very seriously about handing in your notice at work and moving down to the tunnels. None of us know the gestation period of this pregnancy, nine months might be asking too much, and you don’t want to leave it too long. Its four months already.”
Eyes open wide, Catherine looked at Peter incredulously, “You really think the baby could take less than nine months?”
“Despite the fact that it doesn’t yet show, could be down to all manner of reasons, but the position of your uterus has me wondering if the pregnancy will last much longer. At a speculation, and going by other uteruses at that stage I’d say you have a little over two months left.”
Catherine’s mouth dropped open, “Two months!” She exclaimed. Suddenly the walls of her world were closing in on her, and she wanted to escape. “Peter, are you sure?”
He nodded, his kindly eyes examining hers with sympathy. “Just don’t want to take any chances that’s all. None of us know what to expect. We might have had Vincent as the protocol but we weren’t there for his birth or the gestation of his mother’s pregnancy. There’s no one to ask either and no one would know if there were.”
“Maybe Narcissa she knows everything. We could consult her.” Catherine told him.
With brows drawn, Peter looked down at her, “You didn’t know? Of course how would you? Catherine, Narcissa is dead. She was found a month after she went missing at the side of Vincent’s tomb no less.”
Catherine gasped, “Narcissa’s dead? No!”
“There’s nothing to suggest it was foul play, even though her chamber gave us the impression that it had been ransacked and Narcissa carried off against her will. Father concluded that she had heard of Vincent’s death and being unable to believe it had torn up her chamber and gone to see for herself and then with the long trek down to the cave and the cold and damp her heart gave out, either that or she willed herself to die. She and Vincent were very close. Strange though, maybe I shouldn’t worry you about this, but you’ll likely hear it eventually anyway…”
“What?” Catherine asked anxiously.
“On the walls of the cave were letters, written as if Narcissa didn’t want certain parties to know what they meant, thing is as yet none of us have been able to decipher them. Maybe you can. All over the place, on his casket, the walls in the sand on the floor were three letters, H N D, and I haven’t got a clue as to what they stood for.”
“H N D” Catherine shook her head the letters meant nothing to her. “Are they still there, I’d like to take a look and visit Vincent’s grave at the same time. Is Narcissa buried down in the cave too?”
Reluctantly Peter shook his head, “Now that’s the thing I didn’t want to tell you. Soon after she was discovered lying on the floor of the cave by Winslow and Mouse her body disappeared. No one has any ideas as to where it went to though many speculate because Narcissa was known for her strange ways. Some reckon that she just fizzled away into the sand, but those of us that do not believe such things believe that her body was stolen though for what reason we do not know. Either that or Winslow and Mouse were mistaken and that she was not dead at all. Thing is she has never returned to her chamber, so we have to believe that she died. She was very old anyway.”
“Even so…” Catherine began and Peter added, “Well yes, of course, even so age should have had nothing to do with it. If she felt that she could undertake such a long journey than she is to be commended, but obviously it was simply too far one so old.” He shook his head then, “But whatever became of her body is anyone’s guess. None of the community know anything about it. Winslow blames himself, Mouse wanted him to stay behind while he went back to the nearest pipe to send a message, but Winslow wouldn’t stay down there on his own with her and neither would Mouse.”
“That’s strange,” said Catherine, “Mouse had no qualms staying with Vincent.”
“I know, Mouse says it was because Vincent was his friend and he didn’t look dead anyway.” Peter chuckled, then full laughter followed, “I’m sorry my dear but you have to have been there to appreciate it. Mouse stated that Narcissa had looked dead even when she was alive and he was petrified of being with her body.”
Catherine laughed at that, and realised it was the first real laughter she had uttered in months. It felt good, and she soon realised something else. “I’ve missed Mouse, come to that Jamie and Olivia, little Luke, and Geoffrey, Mary, even Father, I’ve missed them all and have only just realised how much.”
“Well my dear I’m going down there now if you would like to accompany me?”
Catherine shook her head, “No, missing is one thing going down there another, although I would like to visit Vincent’s grave. Maybe I’ll go at the weekend.”
“The longer you leave it the more chance you will have to wait to go to the cave until after the baby is born. For the same reason as Narcissa the trek could prove to be harmful to you. Catherine just before I go, can we at least talk about the birth?”
Catherine nodded, wondering what Peter actually meant.
“How many births have you actually seen?”
“Me? None. What are you saying?”
“I think some self help videos would be in order. You need to know what you are up against and with limited apparatus in the tunnels you will need to be prepared more than most. Naturally you can’t get out of it now, but its best to know what you will have to deal with. A few ante natal classes wouldn’t go amiss either, honey.”
Catherine nodded, “Perhaps you’re right. And perhaps you’re right about the visit tonight. They aren’t likely to hold me there against my will are they? Whatever am I thinking of. If I come with you this evening, how long do you plan on staying?”
“A couple of hours. No time for visiting the cave, but enough to visit with the community. If you are ready, we could leave now?”
Taking only seconds to decide Catherine reached for her jacket and shoes, “I’ll be right with you, just let me switch the answer machine on.”
*** *** ***
Walking through the tunnels within the hour with Peter at her side, the sound of the tap tapping on the pipes announced their arrival to all and sundry and Father met them at the entrance to his chamber, the expression on his face a mixture of apprehension and joy. “Catherine?” He queried cautiously, then “Its so good to see you. Are you well?”
“I am Father, and forgive me for staying away but…” She could find no excuse to tell him but Father understood. “It was my fault, I chased you away did I not? You imagined that I was taking control of the situation, and I was, its true, but there will be no more of that my dear. Please will you visit more often, I have missed you so much.” He was going to add as has everyone and especially the children, but he thought that might sound like blackmail so refrained from saying so.
“Peter thinks that the baby might be born sooner than nine months, I may need to seek sanctuary here within the next couple of weeks. Will the council approve?”
“Well let’s ask them shall we? I haven’t told them a thing, I thought I’d leave that to you.” Hobbling to the nearest communication pipe Catherine detected Father’s joy, and saw him pat Peter’s shoulder in passing. It was obvious that the two had been in cahoots over her visiting but Catherine found suddenly that she did not mind. They only had her welfare and the baby’s welfare at heart after all.
Peter watched the scene unfold with pleasure. Having not been there when Jacob had been told about the baby he had seen the older man’s joy second hand. It would be wonderful to see the reaction of the other tunnel members when they heard.
It was a wonderful welcome home, as members of the tunnel community filed into Father’s chamber Catherine started to cry. She had been so thinking of herself and Father’s attitude that she hadn’t stopped to wonder what her absence in their lives had done to these people, and the children! If only her lap had been big enough to house them all, even so each tried to secure themselves a place near her, on her or around her. It was clear to Catherine that she had been missed and that they were expecting her to leave again soon.
“Members of the council.” Father began when he was satisfied that all had arrived. In fact he had difficulty seeing them all, the chamber looked as though it were filled with every tunnel dweller between Manhattan and Brooklyn. There were faces among them that he hadn’t seen in a while.
Someone clapped their hands and silence quickly spread through the chamber, until Father had their avid attention. “Members of the council, Catherine has come here to partition you. I am sure that you will have no problem with her request, but since it is only polite to ask, we are seeking your agreement.” Then turning to Catherine, a young woman swamped with children, he beckoned, “Catherine, if you will please.”
“I couldn’t stand even if I wanted to.” Catherine told the bemused crowd, “So I hope you will forgive my muffled petition.” Everyone laughed.
“I have an announcement to make. This might come as a shock to some of you.” Worried glances from the children turned her way, large ominous eyes clearly troubled by whatever it was she was about to say. She hugged them, “Its nothing to worry about. Its really rather wonderful.” Father heard the children sigh from across the chamber and smiled. He knew what Catherine was about to impart yet even so he found he was filled with a mixture of anticipation and excitement and with his eyes urged her to hurry along with her announcement.
Catherine saw him and laughed gaily, “The truth is, “ she told everyone, watching Father’s eyes and pausing just enough to leave him panting, “I’m expecting a baby.” She paused just long enough for the penny to drop and then added, “Vincent’s baby.”
Utter silence followed and Catherine found that she was grinning from ear to ear and then two of the smaller children tapped her tummy and one asked, “Is your baby in there Catherine?”
Smiling through a well of tears Catherine nodded, “Aha, yes, and he’s going to be living here with you.” Now everyone started to speak at once, as wild thoughts had been swirling through befuddled minds for the past few minutes all culminating in a similar idea, ‘if Catherine were expecting Vincent’s baby, then where would that baby live? Above or below?”
“And so,” Catherine went on, “I would like to ask the council’s permission to live down here with you all and when the baby is born to continue to live here, though I will from time to time be going back above.”
“But you’ll leave the baby here when you do?” Mary was the first adult to ask a burning question.
“That depends.” Catherine told her truthfully. “I will not deny my child the sunlight if it is possible for him to partake of such sights. If however he looks like his father, then I will have limited choice and a limited say as to what is best for him.”
“It’s a boy? You know that already?” Father asked hopefully.
“No Father, just speculation and the way that I feel. Peter is arranging for me to have a scan that would reveal the child’s sex, only I chose not to know and have asked Peter not to tell any of you.”
“But you would hope for a boy?” Jamie asked with a smile, “One that looks like Vincent?”
Again Catherine wasn’t sure, “I don’t know. It’s a question I have asked myself a thousand times, Jamie. I guess whatever will be will be, and as long as the baby is healthy it is unimportant.”
Everyone knew the difficulty of making such a choice. To be like Vincent, be denied the life that others took for granted, yet to not be like Vincent and be denied the beauty of his father, for Vincent had been beautiful, everyone agreed on that.
“Well lets put it to the vote shall we. All that agree to Catherine and her baby living among us say Aye.” Father asked the room.
A chorus of ‘AYE’ sounded making the vote unanimous, “Well then Catherine, may I be the first to say it?” Father stood and crossed the chamber to gold out his hands to Catherine even though both of hers were otherwise engaged in holding children. She pulled one free and took his and with eyes bright and filled with happiness she nodded.
“Welcome to our world Catherine, welcome home.” The chamber was suddenly filled with joyous shouts, cheers and applause and Catherine saw her new family through a well of tears.
*** *** ***
“You knew didn’t you?” Mary asked Father when everyone had left and Catherine had been escorted back to her apartment by Peter. “How could you have kept such a thing from me?”
“It wasn’t easy, but I felt it was something Catherine had to tell you all.” Father replied.
“You’ll be telling me next it was doctor confidentiality. You could have told me!” That Mary was indignant was easy to see.
“In a way it was.” Father told her, “And perhaps I should have told you. But how would that have looked huh? Once you knew the loss of Vincent would have been slightly reduced, and you would have glowed just as I must have glowed these past few months to know that his child is to be born. It doesn’t take away the fact that Vincent is lost to us, Mary but it does ease the futility of his short life to know that he will live on. And in some small way I had to keep it to myself, for in so doing you have been able to grieve properly as has everyone else.”
Mary wasn’t so sure, but she knew when she was beaten. She was peeved, but she would get by. It was just so annoying to think on the nights she had lain awake fretting that never would they see Vincent again, or anyone like him. News of the baby would have eased her grief just a little that was all. Still she was delighted for Catherine, even though the poor woman looked as if she didn’t know if she were coming or going and it would be worse for Catherine. She would need Vincent so much and he couldn’t be there. Mary’s heart ached for the younger woman’s loss. The child would of course lessen it in time, but even so that still posed Catherine an awful lot of problems. In many respects it might have been better for her if there had been no baby, and Catherine was left to heal and move on. She would always grieve for Vincent true, but in time she would pick up the pieces of her life knowing that was what he would have wished for her and she would have found a merit of happiness with someone else. Now though she was doomed to stay tied to the tunnels, in much the same way as Vincent had been and Mary found that so sad.
“When is the baby due?” She asked, as nothing had been said about that.
Father looked up from his ledgers, “We do not know exactly simply because of the gestation period, but Catherine is four months into her pregnancy.”
“Four months?” Mary was clearly surprised and Father understood at once, “It happen in the cave, just prior to Vincent’s death, and I know what you are thinking, I have thought it too. How could it have been possible, and how did Catherine manage it when Vincent was showing such ferocity? Still she tells me that it was beautiful and so I accept that it was. I am just relieved that Vincent died happy.” Again he chuckled unable to help himself, at times that thought had been the only one to get him through the long empty nights.
“He didn’t die during the event though surely not?”
“I didn’t ask, but as far as I know, no it was shortly after. When I found Catherine she had him held in her arms. There was no state of undress, so there must have been a good deal of time lapse between the event and that moment. I didn’t pry into that but of course I have wondered. Who wouldn’t? However it is something that we must leave with Catherine, they are her special memories, not ours.”
Mary understood still just as Father had, she spent more time than she ought just wondering about it. How had it happened? When? What had set it off? A man in such a fury as Vincent had been didn’t just change at the snap of a finger and make love did he? “You don’t think she…” Mary spoke out loud, shook her head and added, “No forget that, she wouldn’t. No point, I mean it’s the last thing you think of right? When someone is at risk of dying?”
“Desperate means have desperate measures my dear, but no you are right, besides Catherine told me that they had intercourse, and I have no reason to disbelieve her. As I say we can wonder and speculate but how when and where belong to Catherine.”
Mary nodded, “Yes, you’re right it is rude of me to dwell on such things. Oh but Jacob what a ribbing we missed with Vincent over it. Can you imagine his embarrassment?” Mary laughed and found that was the first time she had in many months. It felt good.
Father laughed and he too realised how good it was to express such a chuckle. He felt his spirits lift. He could almost see Vincent sitting in his large chair hiding behind a curtain of glossy tawny mane due to acute embarrassment. Father suddenly realised how much he had missed such a sight and almost gave way to tears again. “We’ll have our ups and downs Mary, over the next few years but the baby will help us have more highs than lows. I am so looking forward to seeing this child. I hope he looks like Vincent, does that sound selfish to you?”
Crossing the chamber, Mary laid one hand upon Father’s shoulder and squeezed affectionately, “No Jacob it doesn’t sound selfish at all.” And she meant that for she was beginning to feel exactly the same way.
*** *** **
To be continued in Chapter Four