However, setting them up wasn’t going to be easy. Never a good liar Jenny was even more nervous than normal knowing she would have to lie to Vincent. Being who he was she felt a heal lying to him and being that he had advanced visions as did she, it was hard to know if he might have seen her coming and know what to expect through one of his dreams.
Therefore, Jenny licked her lips a good half dozen times before entering Vincent’s chamber one afternoon when she knew Catherine would be hard at work above and finally grasping a cloak of courage around her she stepped into the dim interior beyond.
“Vincent, may I come in?” She asked the customary request, resolutely forcing the dancing butterflies out of her stomach as he looked up from his desk where he had been writing in his journal. His face lit up when he saw her, the two had become good friends in the time they had known one another. They shared a common bond unlike the one he shared with Catherine, but nevertheless a thread with a gift that both of them understood.
“Jenny, yes come in. To what do I owe the pleasure?” Vincent stood ever the gentleman and pulled a seat around for her so that she might gain easy access in the cluttered room.
“It never fails to amaze me Vincent, what you have in here, it’s like Aladdin’s cave I could spend hours here quite happily browsing. That’s if you didn’t mind?” Her eyebrows rose wondering if he might be offended. However he understood and smiled, “Any time that you wish, come browse at your leisure and if you would like a guided tour I would only be too happy to be of assistance.”
“Thank you Vincent. I might hold you to that, but not today. I’m rather pushed for time this afternoon. However, I had to come to ask a favour of you.”
Inclining his head Vincent waited, ‘what possible favour could Jenny be seeking from him?’ A flutter of excitement started up within, as Jenny’s butterflies became his.
“You mentioned that you like to listen to the concert from your own special place below, and I wondered if you would take me with you when you next went along there.” To her horror, the last few words were uttered with a tremor. Jenny had thought this far and a little beyond in her planning, but suddenly she wondered if he might get the wrong impression. Supposing he thought that she was throwing herself at him? Thus a blush that started at her throat and turned her cheeks to crimson further embarrassed Jenny as she awaited his answer and hoped he hadn’t noticed anything amiss.
He had. For a long time he looked at her trying to see beyond what was actually presented. Above the concert was always built away from the wind, and when rain was expected a canopy was erected. Above among her friends and colleagues Jenny would find more comfort listening to the concert than she would below on damp cushions with only him for company. So, her request had only one reason, she wanted to be with him. Nervously, Vincent fingered the pages of his journal wondering how to answer, but Jenny beat him to it. “You can say no if you wish. Or perhaps you would like some time to think about it?”
“No, it’s not that.” Vincent began reluctant to say what was really on his mind. There had been times in the past when he had known some woman wished to be romantically involved with him, but this had never been one of them. He had not known Jenny felt that way toward him and was dismayed that he had missed the signs but then he had been otherwise preoccupied by thinking about her friend, Catherine.
That thought gave him his answer, “Will Catherine be coming along with you?”
With relief Jenny nodded enthusiastically, Catherine of course! “Yes she will, we talked about it only yesterday.”
It still didn’t make sense. Both would have a better time listening to the concert above, why should they need to spend it below with him? Would he be more at risk with two women than one? What had they got planned for him? Something was not right, and by the look of hope on Jenny’s face Vincent was sure that there was more to her request than met the eye. He had an idea.
“I promised to take some of the younger children with me when I next go, so if you wouldn't mind baby sitting, I'd appreciate your help. I’m sure they will fall asleep before the concert is half done, I had deliberated on how many to take, but if you and Catherine were with me, I could invite three so we could each carry a child back to their parents when the concert is over. What do you say?”
It wasn’t what Jenny had hoped for, but she was also well aware that the children would fall asleep during the concert and if it was all they would get then…”Yes that would be great!” Jenny hoped she sounded more enthusiastic than she felt. Babysitting children was not one of her finer points. Neither come to that was attending the concert from a lower level and suddenly she remembered that she hadn’t even planned on actually attending. Now though having promised to carry one of the children she felt obliged to turn up so she asked, “Will you be attending the concert on Thursday night?” Two days away.
“I can do. If that’s convenient for you and Catherine, I will make the arrangements with the families of the children and if you and Catherine call here for me at seven o’clock I will show you the way to my secret place beneath the bandstand. It’s not easy to find by oneself though once you know where it is you will find it easier to go straight there than have to come right into the main hub which will save you time. Will you have finished work by seven?”
“Its possible I can rearrange my diary, as I’m sure Catherine will too. Thank you Vincent, I’m looking forward to Thursday night. I have to go now, thank you for your time.”
“And thank you for your visit. You are always welcome here and when Catherine deems it safe to return home I’d like to know that you will encourage her to visit from time to time.”
Without thinking Jenny almost blew everything as she replied, “I expect you find it a pleasure and a pain having Catherine stay here at night don’t you?” She gasped, “Oh I’m sorry I didn’t mean that the way it sounded, Vincent.”
He didn’t reply unsure all the more what she actually did mean and by his silence Jenny tried to explain, “I mean its probably wonderful having her company while she spends her nights here, that is when you are both awake and playing chess or reading, or…” Jenny found herself speaking faster and faster as her embarrassment increased until finally Vincent lay a hand over hers and told her, “Its alright Jenny, don’t worry, I understand. At least…” He paused and she could see a hint of a smile that warmed her through.
“At least what?” She had to know.
“At least I understand what you say about the pleasure, Catherine is good company and the children adore her.”
‘As do you’ Jenny muttered under her breath.
“And she is beginning to spend the odd evening above now. Joe Maxwell apparently believes that wherever her safe house is, he would be able to keep a better eye on her if she were at her apartment. After all she is eighteen floors above street level and he can provide all the security that she will need.”
“Yes I know, she told me. Hence the reason she stayed above last night. I think she will spend a lot more time above now and less below, though she will never forget you or your kindness…Vincent?” Jenny thought of a burning question she needed an answer to.
“Will you miss her?”
“I miss everyone that comes and goes in the tunnels for a time, as we all do. Each new face brings with it its own pleasures and there is a certain amount of pain when they leave. Oh is that what you meant by the pain?”
For a moment Jenny didn’t understand and when she did she thought, ‘well possibly’ but told him, “Not exactly. Naturally you will miss Catherine, but she and I are not someone that has wandered down here for whatever reason and will leave and not look back. We do plan to visit, therefore the pain you spoke of will not necessarily arise at her parting. So no, that’s not entirely what I meant. I was thinking more along the lines of how it must be painful for you to have her here, when she is here, so near yet so far.” There she had said it in a roundabout way, now it was up to him to deny it. Jenny waited, breath held wondering by his silence if she had taken him too far.
“I should have known, one such as you, would see beyond what appears as innocent to anyone else.” When he spoke, Vincent seemed to look beyond her, over her shoulder and far away. “And you have told me before, though not in so many words that Catherine and I are destined to be together, but still I cannot accept it Jenny. We are too different, and Catherine is…so beautiful…and whatever you say, whatever your dreams tell you…for once they are wrong. You have allowed romantic notions to stand in the way. Such things can never be, Jenny.”
She heard the sadness in his voice, and before he hid his face from her beneath a glossy curtain of amber hair Jenny caught the barest hint of tears welling in those beautiful lagoon eyes and she knew how deeply she had touched him, and how strongly he wished that she was right. Reaching a hand across the table she grasped one of his and squeezed tightly, “It will happen, Vincent don’t give up. My visions are never wrong. And you too, are beautiful, you know?”
Without lifting his gaze from her she saw him shake his head in disbelief and was stunned by the outburst that followed, “You are Vincent! You are beautiful. In your own way, and Catherine would be a fool if she didn’t recognise that fact!”
Blue eyes were drawn to meet hers in challenge, seconds ticked by as they stared at one another neither speaking until finally Vincent shook his head again and lowered his gaze from hers, “I would like to believe…” he began but stopped when he thought better of admitting anything, but it was enough for Jenny. Those words had borne such hope that she snatched up on them straight away. “Believe me Vincent. My visions have never been wrong. I could set the future by them. And your future has been mapped out and it is entwined with Catherine’s. Say what you like, do what you must, but know that in the end destiny’s child will reel you both in to be together. I don’t know why or how it has to be so, but it just is. And that night Catherine rescued you from that building repaid the debt of you rescuing her from the park, but still your souls are linked. The connection you had with her remains does it not?"
Reluctantly, Vincent nodded.
“Then surely that speaks volumes Vincent? I bet if I asked you could take me straight to wherever Catherine is now. Why should you be able to do that if she isn’t meant to be anything to you?”
“It is a question I have asked myself a dozen times…” Vincent whispered rising his head slightly to meet her eyes.
“Vincent, honey.” Jenny squeezed his hand affectionately, “I came here today with a ruse to ask you to accompany me to the concert from your special place, I confess I had no intention of turning up on Thursday night.” He looked surprised and waited for her to continue wondering why she had lied to him and for what reason.
“I hate lying Vincent, it rubs my conscience, and forgive me for having done so tonight. The truth is, last evening Catherine and I were discussing you, and I talked her into spending an evening with you in your special place beneath the bandstand to listen to a concert there, but she would only attend if I went also. I promised I would come, but I had no intention of doing so. Oh I would have gone if I found that the evening bore weightily on my mind, but I would have tried to have found something to occupy my mind that day to such a degree that I could forget about the concert, or at least forget about the time until it was too late to go. And why would I do something so devious? Simply put I am working along with my visions that you and Catherine are destined to be together and fight it all the both of you like, you are only fighting against the current. I see a happy ever after for you and Catherine Vincent, and both of you have got to believe it. As I say, my visions are never wrong!”
“There are no buts. Believe it Vincent, let it happen in its own time, and stop putting up obstacles where there are enough already. This Thursday evening, be it with the children as chaperons or not, you and Catherine are going to spend the evening beneath the concert in one another’s company and together you are going to draw some conclusions and…”
“No refusals allowed, Vincent, Jenny has spoken. Why are you grinning like that?” She chuckled feeling relieved that his sombre expression of moments ago had been replaced by one of merriment.
“I’ll meet her, spend the evening with her, but not beneath the concert. It is too secluded, and too small. We would have to be in close proximity to one another, something that even I realise would not be acceptable for a first date.” Jenny gasped and with a twinkle in his eye Vincent went on, “I know you have been here this afternoon longer than intended already, but if you would wait a while longer, I should like to write out an invitation for you to take to Catherine. I will also extend the same to you, but whether or not you can make the appointment we will have to wait and see.” He winked and she understood at once. “I shall have to check my diary. When do you intend the date to be?”
“Is Catherine free this evening?”
“As far as I know,” Jenny grimaced, “Drat, but I’m not.” She winked back.
He understood and she knew it but went on as if he had not, “Then I shall expect you both here at my chamber at seven. Wear something warm, we shall be spending the evening picnicking at the falls.”
“Mm sounds cosy, will you be taking along a thick woollen blanket?”
“I could do.” He chuckled.
“I think you should, you could always use it to sit on.” Jenny remarked casually. Her heart was racing. Both knew exactly what they were doing, and both knew that with a bit of luck, only Catherine would be spending the evening with him.
The invitations written, Jenny held them in one hand as she stood at the chamber entrance with Vincent and was compelled to reach up and brush a kiss across one cheek before leaving, “I wish you all the best for this evening Vincent. Don’t worry I will let Catherine believe that I will be there, we will come along separately, however…” She grimaced wryly, “I think I may be delayed…”
Chuckling Vincent bid her farewell, “Thank you Jenny. So I’ll see you when you do finally arrive then?”
“You can bet on it.” Her laughter forced the same from him and shaking his head he watched her go until she disappeared around a corner, and then he began to have doubts about the deception they had planned.
*** *** ***
When Catherine received her invitation she was doubtful about going. She’s lived down in the tunnels three months already, and during that time there had been boring occasions when an invite like this would have been something to look forward to, but now she was living back above she had better things to do.
“I don’t know Jen.” She voiced her reservations, "I mean the concert would have been fine, but going along for a picnic, what’s so special in that? And its not like I haven’t already visited the falls, is it?”
“Oh come on Cathy, stop being such a wet blanket.” The mention of a blanket made Jenny smile causing Catherine to wonder at the merriment that appearred so suddenly in her friend’s eyes. “Okay then, lets have it. What have you cooked up for me this time?”
“Nothing.” Jenny spoke too quickly and Catherine did not believe her, “Did you ask him about the concert?”
“Yes I did, and he’s taking some children along, we couldn’t have done what we’d planned, and then he suggested this picnic tonight instead.”
“Why? Did you make him suspicious about the concert?”
“No.” Jenny averted her gaze as she replied hoping Catherine would not notice how deceptive she was being. “I think he just decided to pacify us with another night out since we could not go along on Thursday night. His secret spot isn’t all that large and it would be filled with him and the children, little room for us.” Now Catherine understood, “Oh I see, so this evening's picnic is his way of making up for Thursday night?”
“Yes, I think he felt bad about not being able to have us there on Thursday evening.” Jenny chided herself to shut up and not give more information than necessary, otherwise she would be adding to the deception and she felt bad enough about that already.
“What time will you be leaving? I thought you said you’d be really busy this evening?”
“I’ll manage it. I can always catch up when we get home, I doubt we’ll be late, it’ll be chilly by the falls, although Vincent said he will bring a blanket.”
“Oh he did, did he?” Catherine liked the sound of that, giving Jenny the feeling that she wasn’t certain who was fooling whom.
“He also said we should wear something warm.” Jenny noted the sudden look of cunning that passed over Catherine’s face before it was replaced with one of glee, “So let me get this right, if I should wear something a little unsuitable and he has taken a blanket, he will be compelled to wrap me in it and keep me warm will he not? That should sufficiently rile him.” Catherine giggled again leaving Jenny to wonder about the game she was playing. For someone that wasn’t interested she was acting awfully like one that was in a subtle kind of way.
“I feel I should know, Cathy, but exactly what game are you playing here? I thought the idea was to have him notice how beautiful you are?”
“Oh he’ll notice me alright! What do you think to this?” Catherine asked before dragging her friend to the bedroom closet and from it withdrawing a slinky little number in emerald green. “Do you think he’d be a sucker for silk? Most men are, and it rather enhances my eyes does it not, and my hair, what do you think?” With the garment held to her chest Catherine danced around the room, swirling this way and that allowing the fabric to glide softly against her legs and fall away without the slightest hint of a sound.
“I think he’ll be lost for words, Cathy.” Jenny was sure of that. Catherine would look gorgeous in such a gown but then she looked gorgeous in anything. “However you might evoke some choice words from him when he recovers enough. That hardly constitutes being something warm, and what if he forgets the blanket, are you prepared to be enfolded in his arms to keep out the chill?”
Catherine hadn’t thought of that and was quiet for a moment, until she announced, “That’s easy, I’ll take one of my own.”
“I don’t like it Cathy. This isn’t like you. You’re flaunting yourself, and you told me you weren’t interested. You don’t need to push Vincent over the edge, I’m sure he already knows how beautiful you are.”
“Do you? Has he said something?” Catherine asked hopefully.
Unable to speak, Jenny deemed shaking her head wouldn’t constitute an outright lie, but she followed through with, “Just wear jeans and a sweater Cathy, you wouldn’t want him to think you are stupid would you? Besides have you thought about footwear? You can hardly wear backless sandals or high heels at the falls and you know it, and I hardly think trainers or boots would enhance the effect of that gown.” Jenny snorted derisively as she pictured that in her mind’s eye.
“I guess you’re right. Okay I’ll take a rain check on the gown, he can see it some other night, don’t know when but I’ll work on it.”
“Maybe you can invite him up here. I know he’d have to be careful, but I also know that Gabriel has not stopped Vincent's jaunts up to the park, so if he can go that far, you don’t live much further beyond that realm, I’m sure we could smuggle him up here somehow.”
“I’ll think about that, in the meantime, jeans and sweater you say. How about these?” She held up a pair of stunning white jeans and a white chunky knit sweater embroidered in satin with pink and red roses.”
“You’ll look like an angel.” Jenny told her and Catherine dismissed the choice at once.
“Then that’s not the right combination. What about the blue jeans instead?” She held them together with the sweater, and Jenny knew that emerald gown or not, Catherine would still look ravishing in her newly selected garments. Vincent wouldn’t know what hit him.
“Perfect.” She told her friend.
“Then these it is. What will you be wearing?”
“Oh something dowdy no doubt, don’t want to be in competition do we?”
Catherine laughed, “You know Jen, I’m actually looking forward to this evening, talking of which we have two hours to get ready, hadn’t you better be going home, or you’ll be late.”
“Vincent expects that, I told him I might be delayed but that you would likely be on time. I’ll see you down there, Cathy. Don’t wait for me.”
In her excitement for the evening ahead Catherine missed the tremor that sounded in Jenny’s reply, and she would not have worried if she had noticed. After all Jenny never lied so for what reason would she start doing so now. “Okay Jen, see you down there, in fact if you could be delayed about an hour…well you know what I mean?” Catherine winked and Jenny sighed with relief. Unwittingly, Catherine had just given her the perfect excuse for not turning up at all. “The floor’s all yours, my friend.” She replied as she headed out of the door, “Just be certain that you make the most of it.”
“Oh I will, Jen, I will.” The sound of Catherine’s laughter followed her friend out, however, the stage had been set, now all that was left was for the characters to play their part to perfection and then Jenny would have the last laugh.
*** *** ***
To be concluded in part twelve.