And So It Begins...
Leaving the world above was not the empty affair Catherine expected it to be. Since her visit to the tunnels and the meeting with the council, she had started packing things into boxes taking her time with the task a few hours after work each day.
Generally Catherine received few visitors, but as Murphy’s law would have it, the first person to call was Jenny. Breezing into the apartment the moment the door was opened to her, Jen spotted the boxes at once, “Having a clear out?” She asked flicking open one of the boxes and nosily peering inside, “Anything to fit me?”
Catherine’s silence turned Jenny’s gaze toward her, and she blushed, “Oops don’t tell me you weren’t trashing this lot after all?”
“Well, no actually…” What could she tell her? She didn’t want to lie and she had given the matter a great deal of consideration. Jenny was her best friend and she along with Nancy her second best friend would want to know where she was going. “Look Jen, there’s something I should tell you, but it isn’t going to be easy.” Jenny took the sofa quietly assuming that Catherine would take her time, and with her gift of perception Jenny knew that it wasn’t something bad but was very important to Catherine. “What is it, Cathy? Come on you can tell Aunt Jenny anything?”
Taking a deep breath, Catherine moved from the door to the opposite sofa and stared at Jenny long agonising moments as all sorts of answers flew to mind, were dismissed and fresh ones sought. Finally, Catherine took the bull by the horns, honesty was after all the best policy and she couldn’t hide anything from Jenny, not really. The other woman would either see through the deception or have a vision that led her to the truth anyway.
“I’m moving Jen. Not far and still in the city.”
“And you were going without telling me?” Jenny sounded genuinely hurt.
“I wasn’t telling anyone. Not until I’m settled. Thought of buying a brownstone, might still do” (one with access to the tunnels) she thought. “The thing is Jen, I’m expecting a baby.”
Jenny gasped and her eyes lit up with delight, “A baby! Why you dark horse, I didn’t even know you had anyone.”
“I don’t.” Catherine’s voice faltered, “That is, not anymore. I’m sorry Jen. There is so much that you don’t know about me, and for reasons I can’t explain I’ve had to keep secrets these past three years, only please know this, if I could have told anyone it would have been you.” With her green eyes pleading Catherine appealed for her friend to forgive her.
“Is it him the one that was coming to see you the night after you were dumped in the river?” Jenny remembered that night as if it were but a day away. Catherine had told her she wouldn’t be alone that night and Jenny had witnessed the love in her eyes. Whomsoever had been coming to keep her friend company had been very special to her. Catherine nodded, “Yes, Vincent.”
It was the first time Jenny had heard a name for him. “Vincent.” She reiterated, rolling the name of her tongue like a sweet caress, “So what’s happened? Don’t tell me he dumped you when he found out about the baby, that would be too cruel?”
Tears welled in Catherine’s eyes, and Jenny quick to notice left her pastel coloured sofa to sit alongside Catherine on the matching one, her arm stealing around her friend’s shoulders and hugging her close. “Its worse?” Jenny prompted gently.
Nodding, Catherine let the threatened tears fall. “He’s dead, Jen.” It was the first time Catherine had actually said those words to anyone and they hurt her deeply. Sobs came thick and fast and Jenny rocked her friend feeling every bit of her pain.
“I’m so sorry honey.” Jenny whispered, “So sorry. If there is anything I can do?”
Catherine mumbled her thanks and sniffing back her tears, turned a watery smile in Jenny’s direction. “He never knew about the baby, and I’m moving to where his family are. They miss him so Jen, it’s the least I can do. This baby is a part of him and it will help them to heal, same way as its presence helps me, but oh Jen, it’s so bitter sweet, if only you knew the full story.”
As best she could without giving away too many details Catherine tried to explain, “Vincent had a gene defect, to many people he looked frightening but to those that knew him he was beautiful. He was beautiful to me, and he had this most incredible spirit, such kindness. It was he that found me in the park that night when I’d been attacked and it was he that nursed me back to health. His father is a doctor, and together they cared for my injuries. We fell in love Jen, but Vincent was always aware of his looks and constantly refused me a life with him. He is…was…afraid to be seen and would only go out under the cover of darkness.”
As Catherine spoke, Jenny began to see a few dreams unfold, and grew to understand much of the missing links of her friend’s life over the last three years. “And you told no one?”
Catherine shook her head, “Not even my father, although on his death bed Vincent visited with him and promised that he would love and look after me until his last breath.” On that Catherine’s face crumpled and she started to sob again.
“Now you can quit that!” Jenny scolded, “He still loves you. The love inside doesn’t stop when people die they take it with them. Wherever Vincent is now, he will know about the baby, and about you going to live with his family. He will know of your selfless offer to be with his family so that the baby might ease their grief, and he will appreciate what you are doing. It is strange though, whenever I have dreams about you and him, and believe me I’ve had many, I always envisage a happy ending for the two of you. I wish I had met him, have you got a photograph?”
Catherine shook her head, “Nothing but my memories. He wouldn’t allow photos.”
“No, of course not sorry I didn’t think.” For a few moments Jenny pondered the situation, and also her own feelings. Her dreams had seldom been wrong and it was true she genuinely believed that Catherine and this man would have a happy life together. “When did he die?”
“Four months ago.” Catherine whispered.
Four months? Well that didn’t add up, Jenny had had recent dreams about these two, nothing told her that the fellow had died and she would have known if he had. Drawing her brows together she frowned, ‘there’s something not right here’ she thought, ‘but why would Catherine lie to me?’
Her silence went unnoticed by Catherine. It felt good to be enfolded in the arms of another, good to have someone take care of her if only for a few minutes. She wished Jenny could visit the tunnels. She would have to ask Father if it could be arranged. Jenny would be a valuable helper, might even take over from where Narcissa left off. At the thought of Narcissa Catherine frowned, she had spared the old woman little thought since she had found out that she had died, and now she found it so strange that Narcissa had made the long trek to the cave and that her life force had expired when she arrived there. Suddenly Catherine blurted, “Jenny, have you ever dreamt about a set of letters, namely H N D?”
“H N D? Not that I can recall, why?”
“Vincent and I knew this old woman, Narcissa her name was, she was like you could see dreams and visions of the future. She died recently near the grave where Vincent is laid to rest and before she passed away she engraved those letters all over the place as if she were frantically leaving a message for someone to see without giving too much away for someone else.”
“Well there’s nothing I can think of regarding them. But just knowing might prompt a vision in the next few weeks. If I have one I’ll come tell you okay, that is assuming I know where to find you?”
“I’ll stay in touch. I’ll call okay, Vincent’s family live in seclusion and I have to ask permission before I can reveal their address to anyone. I’m sorry that it sounds so dramatic, but it’s just the way it is.”
“There’s no electricity either is there?” Jenny asked and Catherine gasped, yet knew the futility of asking how she knew. Jenny would have dreamt it.
“No. They use candles and lanterns and are very down to earth people.” Catherine chuckled remembering a past incident with Joe. He’d almost hit the nail on the head when he had told her that’s the sort of guy she needed. He never knew how close he had come to the partner she already had. Vincent’s home was very down to earth.
“Its quite dark where they live, and cold. Will the baby be warm enough?” Jenny enquired.
“Yes, its warm where his family reside. And other children live there, nothing untoward has happened to any of them due to the cold and lack of light. Besides they play out in the sunshine as often as they can. These people don’t have much but they are a community of people with much love among themselves.” Catherine drew away from Jenny’s arms, beginning to feel a little hot there. “Would you like anything to drink? I’m thirsty. Think I’ll have an orange juice.”
“I’ll get it. You rest. Want anything to eat? I bet you get hungry these days?” Jenny chuckled remembering her friend’s half eaten salads whenever they had ate out together.
“There’s a sandwich pre-wrapped in the fridge. I’ll have that. You’re welcome to make yourself one.” While Jenny made lunch Catherine drew her legs up onto the sofa and leaned back against the arm. It felt so good to have someone that knew some of the facts if not all of them, and Jenny was so perceptive anyway, look how she had known about the non existent electricity and the cold down there. Though ‘down there’ was something that she hadn’t seemed to have picked up on, as yet.
Eating their sandwiches some fifteen minutes later, Jenny looked at her friend sceptically, “I’m sure that there is more that you want to tell me, but I know your hands are tied, however, if I can be of any help to you in any way, you know you mustn’t hesitate to ask.”
“Thanks Jen.” Catherine replied but could find nothing else to say. Jenny though had a question. “Will I ever get to see the baby?”
Placing her sandwich to the pretty orange and blue plate Catherine shrugged, “I don’t know Jen. If it looks like Vincent, probably not, his family are very sensitive about those things. But if he looks like me then yes that’s a dead cert, as I mentioned earlier I plan to buy a brownstone eventually, one that will give Vincent’s family access to the baby and allow my friends and I to socialise, so I will retain a merit of normality even if I will be an unmarried mother.”
“You might meet someone that will be willing to take on the child as his own.” Jenny asked but Catherine shook her head adamantly, “No, I don’t want anyone else, ever.”
“You say that now, but times change, how can you live forever alone? Just don’t ignore anyone that comes along that’s all I ask, you deserve to be happy, Cathy.”
“I am happy Jen. Oh I know I could be happier if Vincent was still alive, but just knowing his baby grows inside of me gives me all the happiness I need. Vincent was a very private person and though we were close we…well…lets just say his baby is closer to me than he ever was, except for the once.” Catherine grinned sheepishly thus giving away one secret and Jenny laughed.
“It might be tough at first but his family are very caring people and I’ll never truly be alone. I don’t know what to do about my job though, or if I should return to it after the baby is born. All I know for now is that I must opt out while I’m still not showing so that not too many questions are asked. That leads me to beg a favour of you…”
“Anything.” Jen told her.
“Can you tell Nancy, anything that will suffice for the time being I have told you many things today simply because I feel that you have seen a great deal of those things already, but Nancy and Paul are something else, and I don’t want to lie to them or give them a half truth. Besides I won’t be far away, just a little unattainable for a while. Is that asking too much of you?”
Jenny was doubtful, “I’ll try, but what if she should see through me?”
“The least said the better. Keep it light and flippant and she should accept whatever you tell her. After all what reason would she have to doubt you?”
“True. All right, if I see her I will think of something. But I wish you didn’t feel the necessity to keep her in the dark, Nancy cares for you like a sister, we both do.”
“Thanks Jen.” Catherine stifled a yawn and Jenny quick to notice told her, “I’d best be going I can see you need to rest, or is there anything I can do for you while I’m here, pack some boxes or something.”
“Would you? That would be wonderful. I am tired. If you could wrap the ornaments in bubble wrap and box them I’d really appreciate that. The crockery has to be boxed too. Well in fact everything does. Would you mind if I went to shut my eyes for half an hour, if you have to leave before I wake just flick the lock down will you on your way out?”
“Yes, now you go and have a lie down on the bed not in here, all the rustling is likely to keep you awake. Bet you haven’t rested properly in weeks, have you? There are dark rims beneath your eyes.”
“I feel like a zombie Jen, can’t remember the last time I actually had a decent night’s sleep. Pills would ensure one but with the baby, I can’t risk it. Nothing must harm this child, nothing, he is more than precious to me.”
Jenny nodded, “You mentioned that before, calling it a he, do you know that it’s a boy?”
Catherine rose from the sofa and stretched, “No, Peter is arranging a scan that would tell me, but I don’t really want to know. I just feel comfortable calling it a he, it comes naturally.”
Bending to straighten the first box, Jenny smiled a secret smile, it came as no surprise to her that Catherine called her baby a boy, and she did not doubt for one moment that it would be anything else. “What will you call him, any ideas?”
Strangely Catherine hadn’t thought to that stage and she paused at the side of her bedroom door and shook her head, “I haven’t a clue.” She told her friend. “Maybe I’ll name him after his father.”
Again Jenny had the strangest feeling waft over her. “One thing before you go, Cathy. You mentioned a woman that has recently died the one that wrote those strange letters, how close was she to your Vincent, do you know?”
“Yes, they thought a great deal of each other. Vincent’s folks believe that his death caused hers, why do you ask?”
Jenny shrugged, “No reason just wondering. Now you go and take that nap and take all the time you need okay, I’ve got a couple of hours spare, I can get a lot done without interference.” She grinned, “So get going.”
Opening the bedroom door, Jenny heard Catherine’s final ‘thanks Jen’ before she closed it behind her. Only then did Jenny squat on the floor legs cross and allow her mind to blank. There had been something filtering through her head ever since Catherine had told her about Vincent, and Narcissa and those strange letters H N D, and Jenny needed to prepare herself to receive whatsoever vision was about to be imparted to her.
*** *** ***
Down in the tunnels, Father and Mary were preparing for Catherine to join them and were deep in discussion. “Do you think its wise?” Mary was asking, “I mean she might not be able to cope with it.”
“But then it will make her feel close to him. We should at least mention it. Catherine can either use Vincent’s chamber or the guest one until we have one of her own ready. She’s got to go in there one day, might as well make it sooner rather than later and as I say, it might make her feel closer to Vincent. All his possessions are there, many of which he shared with her, and she has some of her own things in there already.”
“Things she left with him for safekeeping, yes, but nothing since he has died. I don’t even think she has entered the chamber since she chose the clothes to bury him in. Please just don’t expect miracles. I think we should as you say, give her the choice, but if she chooses not to be in Vincent’s chamber then we shouldn’t force her to go there.”
“All right Mary, we’ll do that. Now changing the subject have you seen Mouse lately? He can help Catherine carry some of her things down. I feel his chatty self will help lighten her up.” Mary smiled, “Well that’s a turn up for the books, you actually suggesting that Mouse should escort her down. Aren’t you afraid he won’t rush her off on some hair brained journey that he suddenly has a desire to pursue?”
Father stared at Mary, “Oh Lord, I hadn’t thought of that. Who would you suggest then, Geoffrey?”
“Yes, exactly. Geoffrey thinks a lot of Catherine, and he would be proud to help move her in. You know though talking of Mouse, I haven’t seen hair or hide of him for a few days, is he working on another gizmo?”
“I hope not!” Father exclaimed before laughing out loud and adding, “Actually you’re right my dear, I haven’t seen him at breakfast since Monday, and its now Thursday, we should check with Jamie, see if she knows how he is, and where he is!”
Mary laughed, “Well I’m going Jamie’s way, I’ll see if she knows anything. Now did you want me to bring you anything from the kitchen? I see your caddy is almost out of tea.”
“Would you, that would be wonderful, thank you Mary. Some sugar too, if you will, you know what a sweet tooth I have.” Father chuckled, “Though I have to admit the sugar has lasted longer recently, maybe I’m not using so much…” His voice trailed away as he realised why that really was, and Mary came to his side and squeezed his shoulders, “If its any consolation, William says his cookies last longer now that Vincent isn’t wolfing them down.” It wasn’t any comfort, tragically such simple things as having more food around the place became significantly sad for Father and Mary, and just when they thought they had cried all their tears, fresh ones reminded them that it would be a long time yet before their grief subsided.
*** *** ***
Unashamedly they sobbed together and more and more as they began to notice all the other little things they had taken for granted before and were missing. Vincent wafting in with some smile on his face as he remarked on one of the children, Vincent fresh from above bringing down the night air about his person, his eyes shining with love and adoration after an evening spent with Catherine. Vincent, stealing cookies from the kitchen, taking sugar from the jar, Father slapping his hand well into adulthood for the act, ‘ you’ll need dentistry if you don’t stop that, and then where will we be, hum?’ All the little things that meant so much were suddenly overwhelming missed in that instance and father made a sudden important decision. “It would be callous to expect Catherine to take Vincent’s chamber, Mary. How could I have been so stupid? We’ll not mention it at all set her set her own pace, in the meantime everything in there stays as it is.” His tears subdued for a moment Father thanked Mary for her support and making certain that she was capable to leave him without stumbling, he watched her go, knowing she would soon return.
Strangely since Vincent had died people didn’t seem to wander about alone anymore unless they wanted solitude. Grief was shared and sustained by the sharing of a friend or a partner another of the reasons why Father wanted Catherine below. Who did she have to share her grief with? How was she coping? Thinking of Catherine helped dry Father’s tears as he anxiously pondered her welfare and then suddenly glancing around his chamber his eyes rested upon the half finished game of chess he and Vincent had last shared, and his tears came again swift and furious, and he lay his head upon his folded arms and let the grief of losing Vincent rip through him all over again.
Moving through the mists of the lower levels Mouse trod silently, if he didn’t soon return home Jamie would come looking for him and he had been away longer than he had intended. Close friend to Vincent, Mouse had never really accepted his friend’s death and he visited the tomb as often as he could, earning himself the title of keeper of the cave in his own mind. Sometimes he took flowers with him, picked from above, wilted by the time they were laid to rest upon the marble entombed casket, but Mouse was happy with them and he would clear away any remains from flowers lain there by other visitors of like mind.
The cave was in distance about two miles into the bowels of the earth. Walk able in a couple of hours if it wasn’t for the terrain. In no way flat the steep incline from the home chambers was littered with sudden drops and natural shafts where Mouse had secured ropes to hoist up on the way back and to drop down. Most of the journey was now made with the aid of a correctly positioned lantern giving the maximum light to its location, but there were areas where Mouse felt the need to strike a match and light up a candle which was easier to carry and less cumbersome than a lantern. Mouse liked to travel light, a pack of beef jerky and a canister of water, for though he knew most of the fissures where fresh water seeped through there was always the possibility that it might have dried up.
Almost a mile from home, Mouse peered from the bottom of a shaft to its top and swore he detected movement. “Hellooooo” he called softly, “Jamie, is that you?” A spluttering of pebbles secured the thought that someone was indeed up there, but no one answered him. So with candle extinguished and placed securely in one pocket, Mouse swung himself onto the rope, using his feet as props to work his way up. He was about half way when the tiny pinprick of light above was obscured by a face and the shaft became temporarily dark, “Who’s there?” Mouse called, he was by no way afraid. Vincent had taught him a long time ago, not to be afraid of anything but he was peeved that whomsoever blocked his light did not answer him. That was rude Father said so.
Mouse hurried on, hands and feet pulling him up until strangely he realised that someone was helping him by tugging on the rope from above, and obviously someone strong because he was no mean feat. Too many of Williams’ cookies had seen to that.
His gaze fixed firmly on whomsoever helped him Mouse frowned when the light returned and he was dazzled by a lantern held to his face as he was brought to the surface and then strangely as he blinked rapidly in one of those split seconds when his eyes were closed, the lantern was snatched away and so too whomsoever had held it in front of him. A solitary lantern flickered on a ledge yards from him, but other than that all other light was extinguished.
“Hello?” Mouse called this way and that, but no one answered, and Mouse shrugged, shook his head and decided someone was playing games. The thing was it had to be adult, someone strong enough to lift him right away from the shaft leaving his legs dangling but what adult would play such games? Why did they not stay around and talk? Mouse was baffled, but he didn’t stay around to dwell on it for long. He was still quiet a way from home, and he was running out of beef jerky.
Strange though, but as he walked on he had the weirdest feeling that someone was following. Looking back afforded him nothing but an eerie darkness interspersed by the odd lantern, and it seemed to Mouse that whomsoever played the game, very cleverly kept to the shadows. This peeved Mouse, and he started calling things, “Come here. Where are you?” There was no reply and no movement. Mouse walked on. The hairs at the back of his neck started to prickle, again he was unafraid, but he didn’t like the thought of someone following him. Finally unable to bear it any longer he turned and ran as fast as he could back the way he had come, his element of surprise such that he hoped to catch out whomsoever tailed him and give them the shock of their life. However the shock was on Mouse! Suddenly from before him a cloaked figure loomed and Mouse caught sight of one retreating back, tall and lean and a head encased by long fiery hair and he could have sworn, with absolute incredulity that it had been… Vincent.
*** *** ***
Up above and in her apartment Catherine was coming round from the longest sleep she had had in months. Knowing that Jenny had been there to rummage about in the other room had made her feel so much better as just the company and the fact that if she was very brave she could imagine that the sounds were being made by Vincent. Who having come to check on her had made himself at home while he had waited for her to wake up. Of course, when her eyelids did at last flicker and open to a darkened room, Catherine soon remembered that her dreams had been nothing more than fantasies, and she was left feeling extremely sad, thus dragging herself from the bed she was just in time to see Jenny donning her jacket and shoes and was glad to have caught her.
“Hi Cathy, feeling better? That was some sleep you had there. Time ran away with me have to dash. There’s a casserole in the cooker make sure you eat some of it. I took the liberty of borrowing your keys and went out to the deli and there are some croissants just waiting to be warmed in the bread bin if you can’t face the casserole right now. Just be sure to eat okay?”
“Oh Jenny thank you so much.” Catherine peered around the darkened room where one lamp illuminated one corner and far wall from where she stood, and the room looked sparse yet tidy and cosy as Jenny had placed almost everything in boxes. “All you’ll need to do is pack up your bedroom.” Jenny told her. “Must dash honey. I’ve had some casserole so don’t worry about me.” Jenny crossed to where Catherine was standing looking quite dazed and hugged her friend, “Take it easy huh? Watch some television, crack open a bottle of coke, and call me okay?”
Catherine laughed, usually Jenny would have suggested a bottle of wine and helped her drink it.
“Thank you so much jenny, for everything. I’ll call you, I promise.” With another quick hug and a kiss to one another’s cheek, the two parted and Jenny made a made dash for the door. She was late for an appointment but she wouldn’t have left earlier for the world. She had a strange feeling that Catherine needed her there, even if she was sleeping, and besides there were a few things she needed to get home for before going out. During the trance she had received some very strange messages and had seen those letters H N & D very boldly written on a rock wall and she had an idea, but would say nothing until she was certain and if she was right then Catherine would be getting her happy life after all just as Jenny’s dreams had attested to.
*** *** ***
No sooner had Jenny left did Catherine receive a knock on her door, believing it to be Jenny, she opened it with a huge smile and was surprised to find, of all people, Elliot Burch standing outside in the corridor. “Elliot?” Catherine held open the door, as something about his appearance told her he needed her help. “What is it?”
“Thank God you’re home. When I saw your apartment in darkness, I wasn’t sure. I need your help Cathy, I wouldn’t normally ask, but it’s important. Can I stay here tonight?” His eyes glanced around the apartment as if to decide for himself if she had the room for him and he noticed the boxes. “Going somewhere, or spring cleaning?” He asked beckoning to a stack of boxes by the balcony doors.
“I’m moving actually.” Catherine could have kicked herself. What was it with her, she was becoming a blabbermouth, first Jenny, now Elliot, who else would she tell?
“Moving? Where? Out of the city?” Elliot’s eyes were pained. He knew that Catherine was linked to someone but he still held on to the faint hope that one day she would return to him.
“No, I’m staying nearby. So Elliot, what’s the problem?” Catherine asked eager to change the subject.
“It suffices to say that the least you know the better it will be. If I could just rest up here tonight I’ll be grateful.” He looked nervous.
“So long as no one has followed you.” Catherine worried about that. Gunmen bursting in could kill more than Elliot. They might kill her or worse the risk of dodging bullets could make her lose her baby even if she did live to tell the tale.
The two regarded one another spectacularly and finally Catherine told him, “I was about to make myself something to eat. Would you like to join me?”
Elliot smiled and began shrugging out of his jacket, “That would be grand. Now I know I’m safe, I find that I need to satisfy another need – I’m starving!”
Catherine laughed, wondered about his problem, decided it was no worse than her own and went toward the kitchen to prepare them both some of Jenny’s delicious casserole and to warm the croissants.
Strangely Catherine enjoyed herself. It had been a long time since she had had exclusive male company and Elliot was as ever charming and light. He made jokes and she laughed and if from time to time a certain sadness crept into her eyes he did not comment on it although he was concerned.
Finally the meal over, Elliot suggested that they broke open a bottle of wine, “It’ll be relaxing.” He told her. Catherine grimaced. How could she refuse wine when he knew her so well? Sharing a bottle of wine together had been something they had enjoyed so much when they had been together. “Not for me, Elliot, but you go ahead.”
“What? Did I hear right?” Elliot chuckled, “Catherine Chandler refusing to drink wine, you on medication or something?”
Catherine snatched at the excuse readily, “Yes! Yes I am.” Taking Elliot by surprise even though he’d been the one to suggest it.
“Got a problem? Not depressed are you? Want to talk about it? What’s the medication for?” He launched one question after another until Catherine wanted to scream – ‘its none of your business!’ Instead she sat down and tried to think rapidly of an illness that would warrant medication and one that would suffice on the occasion. Not all medications had an adverse affect with drink.
“Its not that I don’t want to believe you, Cathy…” Elliot began watching her wring her hands together in her lap, and he could almost hear her brain whirling away, “But I don’t believe you. However, if you don’t want to share wine with me, that’s okay, you don’t need to invent an illness for my sake.” He sounded hurt and Catherine wanted to tell him the truth. ‘Must be my hormones’ she told herself, all those years of keeping the secret and now her tongue was as loose as water. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that Vincent was gone now, and though the baby might look like him, any excuse could be given for non presentation of her child if it did, and if it didn’t then all well and good, she could take the child above. What would Elliot think if he saw her pushing a pram and remember this occasion, not that it was his business, but why keep a baby a secret unless there was a secret attached? Her mind racing, her mouth began to form the words before she had fully decided it was the right thing to do, and just in time too, because at that moment Elliot draped one arm around her shoulders and reading the signs Catherine knew what he was up to.
“Actually Elliot, I’m not on medication.” Catherine drew away from his arm, standing up and going to sit on the sofa opposite where it was safer. ‘and this is before the wine’ she told herself, ‘best he knows before he gets intoxicated on more than alcohol.’
“Didn’t think you were, honey. So how about sharing this bottle with me? It’ll wash down a fine meal.”
“And make you forget all your troubles into the bargain.” Catherine laughed and Elliot looked sheepish. “Guilty as charged your honour.” He saluted her with the bottle held to one temple then he got up and went to sit at her side. Likewise Catherine got up and went to sit on his recently vacated sofa, making it obvious that she was avoiding him.
“Look Elliot, you can stay I’ve said so, and that’s fine, but you and me are history. And there is something you should know before you intend another advance…”
Elliot’s soulful eyes pleaded with hers, she had never been able to resist them when they had dated, and he remembered her kisses with relish. “What?” he asked lazily.
Elliot looked at her with disbelief, his jaw dropped a mile, “Pregnant, as in expecting a baby?”
“Got it in one.” Catherine laughed as much because he looked so comical as to ease the sudden burden of guilt she was left with by telling him.
“Right.” Immediately Elliot sobered, and he hadn’t even opened the bottle, although Catherine suspected he had had more than his share of fluid before arriving at her apartment.
“So that’s why you are moving? To be with him?” Catherine didn’t dare enlighten him further. Him could be a reference to the baby, it would do. She nodded vigorously, hoping he would accept that. He did it worked, “Is he likely to come here tonight? I wouldn’t want him getting the wrong impression.”
Now Catherine had to lie, “No, he won’t be coming tonight.“ Inside her heart cried ‘nor any night, ever again’ and she had to fight back the tears. The last thing she wanted was to encourage Elliot’s comfort or further questions and suddenly she felt awfully tired again.
“I need to sleep now Elliot, do you mind? These sofas are too small for you, so I suggest that you take my bed and I’ll curl up here.”
Immediately Elliot protested, but Catherine was adamant, “It makes sense.” She told him and the bedroom has an en-suite bathroom at your disposal.
“It’s not that, honey.” Elliot stood and to Catherine’s amazement he began to push the sofas together. “Had a cousin once, spent the night on the sofa, rolled off and lost her baby, wouldn’t want that happening to you. This way should keep you safe.” Catherine was touched by his thoughtfulness, and saw a side to Elliot that she remembered and liked. Then he bent and briefly kissed her cheek, before dimming the lamp and making for the bedroom. There he undressed, showered and threw himself on top of the bed naked, too tired to close the balcony doors or to creep beneath the sheets It had been a long day and a rough night, but for the first time in weeks he felt truly safe and he was soon fast asleep.
Sometime during the night Catherine had another visitor, one that looked in through the open balcony doors and found not Catherine, but a man lying sprawled naked on top of the covers. The visitor gasped and backed out onto the terrace, eyes filled with disbelief. After a while his thudding heart calmed a little and he looked back just to make certain that he hadn’t imagined what he’d seen and at that moment the figure upon the bed rolled onto his back revealing who he was. Again the visitor gasped and hurried away out onto the terrace his broken heart racing. He should have been satisfied that Catherine had moved on and found someone new to love, he should have been happy that she had put the past behind her and maybe he might have been but for two reasons, one, why had she found someone so quickly and two, why of all the people did it have to be Elliot Burch!
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To be continued in Chapter Five.