With disbelief, Catherine gazed at her wan expression in the mirror. Green sombre eyes regarded her with scepticism, her own reflection mocking the memories held inside her head. It hadn’t happened, it was impossible, still the bandages that covered most of her face gave way to the tell tale truth of what lay beneath and of what had taken place that night.
That night. One night among many, yet different in itself, the night when worlds would meet…when the walls grew thin… the one night in the year when good and all that was evil converged as one. Samhain, otherwise known as Halloween.
Halloween, always a splendour to Catherine a time of merriment, of fun with friends, apple bobbing, trick or treating, ghouls and goblins, painted faces, pumpkins glowing with the light of candles. These times Catherine remembered with joy, each fresh year ticked off and stored away to remember over and over with those she shared them with… but not this year.
She would never want to remember this year. Holding a hand to her bandaged face she touched with fingers of light the cuts she knew to be there and in her mind’s eye imagined the scars that would be had it not been for her father’s wealth and the skill of a surgeon’s hand performing cosmetic surgery.
Yet there was something else as she stared at her own reflection and quick bursts of memory came and were gone as something elusive pricked at her heart, her soul, her mind and eyes of blue shone through a cat masked face set to haunt her. Strange those eyes, such compassion! Catherine felt them upon her still except for the strangest of things that they seemed to be within looking out, as if…no that was silly…but as if it were those eyes, those china blue eyes gazed back from the reflection of her own.
Ever since that night, every moment had been haunted by those eyes, and just as Cinderella left a slipper for her prince to find, so Catherine vowed that she would find and thank the kind soul who those eyes belonged to, for without him she…Catherine shuddered…without him she would have died.
Strange those feelings that surrounded her each time she thought of him. It was as if he was a part of her, someone she did not know, might never see again yet had taken over her whole being almost as if he was the other half of her soul, someone that had been destined to cross her path from the beginning of time.
Rarely taken to flights of fancy Catherine chided herself on such wild imaginings. Yet, at the same time she had felt uneasy ever since he had rescued her in the park, and had carried her to the roadside and called for an ambulance at the nearest kiosk, waiting no longer with her than was necessary, just long enough to see her into the ambulance and to wish her two words, ‘be well.’
Strange how until now she had forgotten about that… how could she have done so! That voice, like velvet over gravel expressed care for her well being to such a degree that Catherine knew that they were more to him than wishes of condolences. He meant them, he hoped that she would recover and it would grieve him if she did not. It had been at that moment when their eyes had met blue on green, just as the paramedics had bestowed her inside the ambulance ready to whisk her away, but first preliminaries her name, his name, had he seen anything, who had done this terrible thing…his answers had been lost to her. Maybe someone knew.
Pulling the cord that would bring a nurse to her, Catherine faced the door in hopeful expectation, someone somewhere would know who he was, would tell her so that she could thank him, so her father might reward him for his compassion.
When she came however, the nurse had no such knowledge to impart and Catherine’s notes revealed little. Peter then, Peter would know. The family general practitioner would have received her details by now, in fact, it was surprising that he hadn’t yet visited.
That she rambled over insignificant things, the nurse ushered Catherine back to bed. “You shouldn’t be up young lady, you have two cracked ribs, not to mention that it is only a few hours since the operation. You could faint and how would anyone know? Now to bed with you I’ll try to find the answer to your questions if they are that important.”
Relieved, Catherine returned to her bed willingly, feeling happy with the promise and contented with the company as the nurse fussed over her like a mother hen. Still when her room was quiet again Catherine did not feel alone. It was as if…he was there…still…his awesome figure looming over her in a protective pose and Catherine slept safe in the knowledge that he would take care of her…always…always…
*** *** ***
Amid the flickering candles, a game of chess was underway, each player absorbed in the board and the pieces before him trying at best to outwit the other player and win the game. Vincent, the younger of the two and different to all other men by his leonine looks and halo of golden hair reminiscent of a mane about his head was losing to the older man, grey haired and bearded with merry twinkling blue eyes that spoke of his glorious victory over the chess board. Thus, student and teacher played to win, but as always teacher had the upper hand as he cried joyfully ‘checkmate’ causing the younger man to issue a sigh of good-natured defeat.
“One of these days…” The younger differ man began.
“You’ll beat me.” The older man laughed, “And then Vincent where would I be eh? I do have a reputation to uphold you know.”
The younger man chuckled his face wreathed in a smile that lit up his blue lagoon eyes, eyes to drown in causing the older man to gasp as he always gasped when he saw the beauty transformed before him. How one might possibly decide that this different man was ugly beat him. The older man was well aware that there were some people that referred to Vincent as a beast, but to the older man Vincent was as gentle as a lamb despite his lion like appearance and how he had got like that was anyone’s guess. Of course, they had ideas, over the years, many had been presented but none had any foundation. Vincent was what he was, and there was no disputing the fact that someone somewhere would know his origin but unless his friends were to reveal their knowing him they were unlikely to know where to look to find it.
Brought to the tunnels a foundling, the older man had cared for and raised the strange looking man as his son, and now the two had a remarkable relationship of friendship as well as clan.
“Are you going above tonight, Vincent?” the older man asked with one raised brow. He both feared and craved his son’s answer.
“No, so you can quit worrying, Father. I have some lessons I wish to go over before tomorrow, Geoffrey and Samantha are becoming quite the scholars, I think we have university students in the making.”
“You think so too?” Father leaned back against his chair, the chess game long forgotten as other more encouraging subjects were brought to mind. “Geoffrey’s ability to grasp the concept of chemistry is most surprising, and that reminds me I saw him in quite a heated discussion with Mouse this afternoon, remind me to ask him about it will you?”
“Eavesdropping Father?” Vincent grinned.
“Of course not, but those two together can you imagine it? They might blow us up if they are going to be experimenting in Mouse’s chamber with chemicals. You know as well as I that it doesn’t take much to encourage Mouse to make mischief.”
“Then I’ll remind you. Should I perhaps send Geoffrey to you after his lesson tomorrow? It will finish at ten thirty, will you be available by then?” Vincent asked as he poured tea for the two of them from a battered steel kettle that had seen better days.
“Yes I should be taking a break about that time. Send him here will you?” He told his son thanking him soon after for the offered cup of tea. “So you won’t be going above, and I can rest easy tonight, you don’t know what a relief it is to here that Vincent. Your jaunts up to the park will eventual give me an ulcer I fear.”
“I’m sorry that I cause you such distress, but Father even the likes of me, needs his freedom sometimes. The tunnels can seem like a prison even though they are filled with nothing but love and affection for so many people, and I know that I receive far more than most. I am grateful Father, but I too need my space, and the park is so beautiful at this time of year, so many wonderful scents to enjoy.”
“Vibernum, I should imagine. A heavy scented shrub that wraps itself around you like a fragrant cloak. Small pink flowers upon thin long sticks with small green leaves, sparse toward the top have you noticed any?”
Vincent was smiling, remembering, “Yes I do believe you are right, Father. There are also smaller flowers of varying hues, wallflowers I do believe?”
“And night stock no doubt, yes I can well imagine your joy to mingle with such scents, but the other evening Mary remarked upon another that lingered upon your cloak, a man made scent she called it…” Father chuckled, “actually she said it reminded her of a woman’s perfume, but I told her that would be ridiculous. Not only is perfume in limited supply down here, but you were hardly likely to be consorting with females on your trips above.” He laughed jovially but did not see the sorrow that his remark had caused his son who chose that moment to look down into his teacup in order to mask his emotions.
Vincent knew that his father hadn’t intended to hurt him by the remark he was just stating the obvious. The unlikely possibility that Vincent would ever come close enough to any woman that her perfume might linger about his person was ridiculous. It was also hurtful, and faced with such a fact reminded Vincent of who he was, who he really was and that such a relationship would never come along for the limes of he. Still on this occasion, his father was wrong. “Actually, “ Vincent began, “I did rescue a young woman and it was most probably her perfume that Mary smelt upon my cloak.”
Eyes wide his father looked up at him eager to know more, “You never said. Which night was this?”
“More than two weeks ago now, it was nothing and before you ask no, I wasn’t seen, I was careful even when the paramedics asked their questions.”
Father spluttered on his tea, “The paramedics, and you thought this of little consequence? Vincent! Tell me please before I go quite mad imagining the worst.”
“There was a woman, I saw her dumped from a van, left to die from wounds caused by a knife. At that moment, my only thought was to help her and I was undecided how to do that. I could have brought her down here…”
“I’m pleased you did not!”
“Or I could use one of the pay phones up in the park to call for an ambulance. Since I know your views on having strangers here I regret that I allowed that to influence me…” Father detected bitterness here, “here would have been quicker and safer since she was left for dead not far from the tunnel entrance but I knew that to lift her could pose a threat to her life. There may have been internal injuries that I could not detect, so I ran to the nearest kiosk, dialled 911 and waited until the paramedics arrived. I stayed within the shadows issuing the information they required until I was certain that they had enough to go on and then I left them to it. And that’s all there is to know. I have no idea who the woman was or whether she lived or died.”
“Surely the paramedics were suspicious? I mean a man cloaked and hooded that remained in the shadows, they may have deemed you had injured her?”
“I know, and I took a risk, but Father what was I to do, leave her there to die? You taught me better than that. Despite what I am I could never let another suffer because of being afraid to help.”
His father nodded, “Yes of course. But you still took a risk. Perhaps the papers have something to reveal about it. Two weeks ago, you say? Who would still have a copy that old?” Father scratched one hand over his bristled chin thoughtfully, “I suppose Rebecca might have one. She wraps candles in old newspapers when she has run out of tissue paper, would you ask her for me Vincent?”
It was the last thing he wanted to do, but Vincent promised he would. As far as he was concerned, the least he knew about the woman he had rescued the better, for ever since that night he had been plagued with dreams about her, dreams that filled his waking hours as well as in sleep, dreams he would rather not have. The showed him glimpses of a future he knew that one such as he could never have and they left him feeling bitter and heartbroken as they teased him night and day. Still with time they would pass he was certain of it, he just wished they would stop coming sooner rather than later. He had caught but a glimpse of her face and that cut and bleeding and hard to establish her background, but her clothing and scent had spoken volumes. *** *** ***
Strangely that woman had come from the wealthier side of society he was sure of it, and that further taunted him. If by some miracle he might find a woman to love him as unconditionally as his dreams had led him to believe then certainly it would never be someone that was rich and beautiful. The comparison would be too great and the spectrum too far apart. However, hauntingly he couldn’t put thoughts of her out of his mind even though he was certain of one fact…the unlikelihood that he would ever see her again, despite that which his dreams insisted.
To be continued in part two.