The Banished Princess

     A shuffle of small feet made Catherine smile. ‘Sebastian’ had long since fallen asleep, and ‘Viola’
only just now. Sweet ‘Sebastian’ had the bothersome and adorable habit of wailing if he couldn’t touch
either his mother or his sister for more than five minutes. And little ‘Viola’ was disturbingly silent,
watching all around her, only crying if it was well past her feeding time, or if no one noticed that she
needed to be changed.
     
     So, the two children slept in the crib beside her bed, wrapped up next to each other. As always,
‘Sebastian’ had fallen asleep first, listening to his sister’s steady breathing next to him. And ‘Viola’
shortly followed, only after she had assured herself that her brother was beside her, the bed next to her
own, and her mother was perched atop the bed. Catherine had laid down with them, her arm draped
over the edge of the bed, rocking the crib lightly, lulling her twins to sleep.
     
     So, the soft scuffle of feet at the threshold made her smile, knowing that one of the children had
walked in on their scene. The feet scuffled a little more... the child was trying to decide whether or not to
disturb her.
     
     “I’m not asleep.” She said softly to keep the messenger from leaving.
     
     “Catherine?” Young Geoffrey’s voice whispered through the chamber.
     
     She rolled over and sat up, leaving the crib’s rocking to play itself out. She smiled at the little boy
who was still uneasy around her; still unsure if he was breaking some unwritten rule. “Hello Geoffrey.”
She whispered. “How did your classes go today?”
     
     “Alright... I still have two more.” He smiled back at her, more at ease now. Catherine adored him for
that sweet, toothy, freckle-faced grin of his. He was such an innocent child, despite his ordeals Above.
     
     “You’ve got that scene today, haven’t you?”
     
     Geoffrey nodded. “It’s been tough to learn without Vincent.” He blurted out and then realized what he’
d said. He shamefully glanced at her, but she seemed unscathed by the remark, so he tentatively
continued. “But... Nicky and I think we’ve got it!”
     
     Catherine smiled, putting her finger to her lips; the international sign language to be quiet. “That’s
wonderful.” She whispered. “Tell Nicky I wish you both luck.”
             
     Geoffrey grinned again. “I can’t do that, Catherine. It’s bad luck.”
     
     “Oh. Sorry. That’s right!” She giggled softly. “Well, break a leg, both of you.”
     
     “Thanks. Maybe you could come!” The thought occurred to him and he bounced with excitement of
the new idea. “It’s not for another couple of hours.”
     
     “I’d like that.” She beamed at him. “Well, I don’t want you to be late. You’d best get back to your
class.”
     
     “Oh! I forgot!” He rushed over to the bed and handed her a delicately folded note, then leaned over
the bed to peer at the twins. “Father said it was urgent.”
     
     She read the note and sighed heavily. “I hate to wake them.” She joined Geoffrey, staring at the
babies. “Maybe Mary is...”
     
     “Mary’s in the kitchens.” He cut her off. “And Lena and Olivia went down to the waterfall with a bunch
of laundry, they won’t be back for a while. Father says to just bring the twins with you.”
     
     “Oh...” she groaned slightly, “they just fell asleep.” She rolled off the bed, which Geoffrey immediately
clamored onto in order to get a better look. “Did Father say what this was about?”
     
     “No. He just said it was important.” Geoffrey answered, entranced by the synced breathing below
him.
     
     “No one’s come back yet.” She mumbled as she pulled on a large quilted coat. She slipped her
arms into the thick sleeveless straps and fluffed it out until the bottom rested at her ankles. “I would have
heard, something would have come over the pipes.” She began buttoning from the middle of her chest
and down, fumbling with the large buttons. “Where did that carrier...”
     
     “Good morning, Viola.” Geoffrey cooed sweetly over the bed.
     
     Catherine spun and found her daughter blinking silently at her. “Goodness...” she smiled, despite her
exasperation, “you just will not stay asleep, will you?”
     
     “Can I hold her?” Geoffrey sat up excitedly.
     
     Catherine glanced between him and her daughter and then giggled softly. “Alright, but I’ll warn you,
‘Sebastian’ doesn’t like to be without her. He may wake up. Well,” she lifted the silent child out of her
crib delicately, “I don’t suppose it matters now.” She carefully set the baby in Geoffrey’s waiting arms.
“Careful now. Hold her head.” She instructed, and when they were properly fit together she moved away.
“Now... where is that carrier?”
     
     “Hello...” Geoffrey spoke quietly to the baby girl, “do you remember me? I was here a couple days
ago.”
     
     Victoriously clutching the second baby carrier, Catherine began the painstaking task of strapping
herself into it. She fought and fumbled, having never had to do this alone before. But every few seconds
she would steal a glance at her baby laying in sweet Geoffrey’s arms.
     
     All of the other children had been immediately drawn to ‘Sebastian’, understandably. He looked
extremely like Vincent and that fascinated not only the children, but the adults as well. But Geoffrey,
though he too was fascinated by the abnormal baby boy, took an immediate attraction to little ‘Viola’. He
loved to hold her, to watch her sleep, and he was always talking to her as if the two of them were
carrying on a perfectly normal conversation. Catherine grinned largely and then went back to her task.
     
     “I’ve got a big test today.” Geoffrey continued his one-sided conversation. “Your mom’s gonna bring
you to see it, I’ll bet. It’s Shakespeare. You’ll learn all about Shakespeare when you meet your dad.”
Catherine’s smile grew even larger, and the boy’s conversation never faltered. “At first I thought it was
pretty boring, but then, your dad, he taught me how magical it could be. You’re gonna be so lucky to
have him, Viola. He’s gonna teach you everything.” Aware of her gaze, Geoffrey smiled up at Catherine.
     
     She smiled back, adoration radiating back at him. “Yes he will.” She confirmed quietly.
     
     ‘Viola’ squirmed suddenly in Geoffrey’s arms and he fumbled nervously with her. Immediately the
odd purring cries of ‘Sebastian’ sounded from the crib.
             
     “And there goes the other one.” Catherine rolled her eyes and sighed.
     
     “What do I do?” Geoffrey panicked, trying to hold little ‘Viola’ still.
     
     “It’s okay,” she soothe all three children, “just set her back in the crib. He just noticed that she wasn’t
there. Everything’s okay.” She guided Geoffrey’s hands, teaching him how to gently situate the twins in
their crib for one. Immediately the cries stopped and ‘Viola’ placed her tiny hand on her brother’s
abdomen. “You see,” Catherine’s voice was velvet soft as she spoke, “everybody’s just fine.”
     
     Geoffrey grinned at the twins. “Sorry Sebastian. We were just visiting.”
     
     “Alright, well, you’d best run off to your class, Geoffrey. I don’t want you to be late.”
     
     “Okay.” Geoffrey reluctantly moved away from the crib and started out the door. He stopped at the
threshold and turned back to Catherine just as she had clipped the two baby carriers together.
“Catherine?”
     
     “Yes Geoffrey?” She kept adjusting the make-shift carriers, not looking at him.
     
     “I’m really glad you came back.” He nodded his sincerity.
     
     She looked back at him, smiling at his freckle-faced grin again. “Thank you, Geoffrey. I’m glad you
are.”
     
     “And also,” he added quickly so as not to loose her attention, “I know Vincent will come home soon.”
     
     “Yes.” She acknowledged with just as much conviction and certainty. “He’ll be home soon. And then
maybe you can show him your scene.”
     
     “Yeah!” He started out again with new-found excitement, but back-tracked once again. “You are
gonna come today, right Catherine?”
     
     “Geoffrey, I wouldn’t miss it for the world.” She answered enthusiastically. “Now go on!”
     
     “Okay!” He bolted out of the chamber, eager to tell his friends of his time spent with Catherine and
the new twins.
     
     Catherine sighed, setting her hands on her currently voluptuous hips. She smiled ironically at her
twins. “Well... this will be interesting.” She chose ‘Sebastian’ first and attempted to set him comfortably
on the carrier strapped to her shoulder.

********************************************************************
     It was the first time Catherine had walked through the tunnels on her own, just her and the twins,
since they had been born. There was a freedom and security about it at the same time.
     
     Everything seemed so quiet. She didn’t know why she was surprised, half the tunnel community was
off looking for Vincent. The passageways and chambers seemed so quiet... so empty. Of course there
were some others to greet her along the way. So many of them hadn’t seen the twins yet, so Catherine
indulged in the other’s admiration of both children for just a few minutes.
     
     It took close to a half an hour to finally reach Father’s study. She assumed that she would be
chastised for it, but it had been worth it to show off her twins. His unyielding face was no surprise to her,
she’d been living with it for months. But, the smile he gave as he stared at the children strapped to her
chest was more than welcome.
     
     “You said it was urgent.” She descended the stairs slowly, so as not to jostle the children too much.
     
     “Ah!” Father’s focus was the twins, but Catherine didn’t mind. “Hello, you!” He kissed ‘Viola’s
forehead. “And you...” Without question or thought, Father pulled ‘Sebastian’ out of his carrier. It threw
Catherine a little bit off balance, but she just giggled at the focus that Father gave to his grandson. He
cradled to baby boy, now wide awake and increasingly alert, bouncing him sightly and speaking to him
as if he understood every word. “Did you take a walk with your sister? Look at you... you are getting
much bigger! Is he eating alright?”
     
     It was the first time he had acknowledged Catherine’s presence and she stammered a bit.
     
     “Um... oh, yeah!” She smiled. “Believe me, he has no trouble eating.”
             
     “Uh-huh.” The focus was back to ‘Sebastian’. “Well, neither did his father, so it shouldn’t be too much
of a surprise.” Father made a parade of nonsensical sounds and bounced the baby boy for a few more
minutes.
     
     Amused, but anxious and tired, Catherine sank into the nearest chair and unstrapped the baby
carrier, leaving ‘Viola’ inside, but cradling her as she watched Father. “Is there something wrong?”
     
     “What?” His attention pulled to her quickly as if she had screamed at him. “Oh! No, no, everything’s
fine.” He told her shortly.
     
     She leaned forward, trying to capture the old man’s gaze, but he had eyes only for the baby in his
arms. “Your message said it was urgent.” She was quiet for a moment, and he pretended not to hear
her. “Has... has someone returned from the search?” She asked, trying desperately not to sound too
hopeful.
     
     “No.” He answered with a touch of bitterness, but his gaze never strayed from the babe. “No, their off
on their mission. Bound and determined to find him when he doesn’t want to be found.”
     
     Catherine looked down and her eyes were caught be her daughter’s enigmatic gaze. “I have to
admit,” she began quietly, trying to sound ashamed, though secretly not, “I’m a bit anxious for him to
return. I mean-“
     
     ”As are we all, Catherine.” Father interrupted, hobbling to the chair across from her. “Don’t think for a
moment that you are the only one down here who misses him, loves him, and needs him.”
     
     Catherine was completely taken aback and she was nearly at a loss for words. “I... I would never
think-“
     
     ”We all care very deeply for Vincent. We don’t like to see him in pain, and we miss his presence.”
Father seemed to pierce her with his words, though his eyes never left the child.
     
     “I know that, Father.” She implored, leaning toward him again. “I do.”
     
     Father faltered slightly, glancing at her, but quickly averting his eyes. “He will come back when he’s
ready. No sooner. No matter what they think they’re going to accomplish.”
     
     Again, he focused his attention on little ‘Sebastian’, seeming as if he was avoiding something. And
again, Catherine ventured slowly to find the cause. “Father? Is everything alright?”
     
     There was silence in the dimly lit chamber before he answered. ‘Sebastian’ began to squirm and
Catherine recognized the soft mewing cries that would eventually lead to the wailing storm that his
separation from she and ‘Viola’ elicited. Father seemed serenely unagitated by the baby’s fidgeting and
only answered after he’d had proper time to think it through. “Everything’s going to be alright, Catherine.”
     
     She smiled weakly at him, trying to encourage the secret out of him. “Thank you, Father. But...” she
paused and again Father took no noticed of her falter, “I assume that you didn’t ask me the come
urgently just to tell me that. What’s going on?”
     
     He seemed to struggle with himself for a moment and the child in his arms fussed even more. “I
need...” he faltered and clarified himself, “we need to talk about this.”
     
     “What?” She glanced around herself, growing nervous.
     
     “You love Vincent.” To Catherine’s concealed delight, Father’s comment was a statement of fact, not
a question. “And... neither of us want to see him hurt.” He paused. “Agreed?”
     
     “Of course.” She jumped, not realizing he had expected an answer.
     
     “But you’ve already hurt him... badly.” Father raised his eyes and, for the first time, his stare bore into
hers.
     
     She tried to look away, now truly embarrassed and ashamed, but his gaze held her steady and she
was forced to look into his eyes and answer. “I know.”
     
     Father rose and began to pace, rocking the baby as he did, finally acknowledging the whimpers
issuing from the child. “I know what happened, Catherine. I’m not blind.”
     
     She knew what he meant, but she chose to feign ignorance. “What do you mean?”
     
     “Catherine...” he sighed her name out as if exasperated by some game they were playing. “A long
and think cut in your chin, you were both dripping wet... and I suspect it wasn’t from the water. And he
wouldn’t come near you. I knew... from the moment I stepped into that chamber... and you were sitting
there as if your clothes didn’t fit quite right...”
     
     “What are you trying to say, Father?” She interrupted him, not wanting him to go into more detail than
that memory held.
     
     “I am saying that I know what happened between you two that day,” Father answered with a harsh
edge.
     
     “Well, I should hope so.” She suddenly smiled at him incredulously. “There is a little boy in your arms
who should tell you what happened that day.”
     
     “No, that’s not what I mean.” Father’s pacing never slowed, but he also didn’t acknowledge the baby
who was growing louder by the minute. “Not exactly anyway.”
     
     “Father...” Catherine’s smile fell instantly, and she squirmed slightly at the formation of a nervous knot
in the pit of her stomach.
     
     “He hurt you, didn’t he?” Father approached her slowly as if trying to unlock her secret by the mere
closeness.
     
     She gapped at him slightly, then swallowed hard and began to stammer. “I... he... he didn’t know. It
was an accident!” She insisted, tears now forming. “I pushed him. I pushed him too far.”
     
     “You pushed him away.” Father added quietly, not looking at her as he moved his pacing to a wider
area, farther away from her.
     
     She nodded stiffly, swallowing to hold back her tears. “I tried to reassure him, Father, but he just
wouldn’t listen to me.” She was suddenly angry and ‘Sebastian’ began crying. “He’s just so stubborn and
pig-headed!”
     
     “Yes...” he spoke slowly, his voice a rumbling storm rolling in, “you tried so hard that you felt it
necessary to go out with that other man the same night.”
     
     Catherine clutched her daughter close, as if the infant could hear and understand what had just been
said. But still Catherine was angry. “Father, don’t...” she warned quietly. “I think that I’ve done my
pennants for it. I’ve put it behind me. It doesn’t matter now.”
     
     “Yes Catherine, you’ve put it behind yourself, but has Vincent?” The question hung in the air like a
lead balloon ready to pop. “That mess, that whole situation, is the reason why he’s been gone so long.
You do know that, don’t you?”
     
     “Of course I know that.” Catherine answered stiffly, her tight jaw beginning to quiver. ‘Sebastian’ was
nearly wailing now, and Catherine sighed. “Here... I’ll quiet him.: She held out her free arm.
     
     “He’s alright.” Father withdrew farther from her. “Sometimes babies just need to cry, Catherine.”
Father’s eyes fell on the baby who wiggled and turned to no avail. “God knows, his father cried for days
once.”
     
     She was a bit offended by the condescending remark, but she settled back, complacent to hold
‘Viola’.
     
     “What do you think is going to happen?” Father restarted the conversation rather quickly.
     
     Catherine looked up at him, the innocense of her stare was reflected in her baby girl’s eyes.
     
     “When Vincent does return.” He clarified, and before she could reply, he had barreled on. “If they
manage to drag him back here, what will happen? What do you suppose he’ll say when he’s suddenly
confronted with you and your children?”
     
     “I don’t know.” She stated honestly, her eyes never left his face even as he paced. They were having
to raise their voices over ‘Sebastian’ now. “I hope that he will accept them, love them. I hope that he will
want to talk with me for once, instead of running away. I hope, ideally, that in a few weeks, maybe
months... we’ll be a family.”
     
     “That’s a lovely dream, dear.” Father replied quickly and coldly.
     
     “Why?” She asked, her anger growing again. “What do you think will happen?”
     
     “Honestly...” he stopped and moved closer now, each step toward her seemed to quiet ‘Sebastian’
more, “I don’t know. But, I don’t think he’ll be quite as understanding, as quickly as you think. This
situation you two seem to have gotten yourselves into-“
     
     ”Is our business.” Catherine finished for him. “I... we both have appreciated your advice and council
in the past, but...” she stopped, trying to find delicate words. Her instinct were beginning to win out and
she leaned forward. Just a few more inches closer and she could touch ‘Sebastian’. “Father, we’ve
made our mess, you have to let us clean it.” All of this was said in a flood of words, she was growing
increasing impatient. “If you just hand him to me, he’ll stop crying.” She added impatiently as if it were a
part of her previous thought.
     
     “He’s quieting down now.” Father replied calmly. He watched her take a deep breath and sit up
straight, resigning to the fact that he would not release her son to her. “I admire your strength and
conviction, Catherine. But, I just don’t think that you’re being realistic.”
     
     “Father...” she stared up at him curiously, “why don’t you trust me?”
     
     He didn’t try to deny her words, not even a look of confusion. He just thought for a moment and then
calmly continued. “Because you are just like Devin. You’re impulsive, full of these fantastic dreams...”
     
     “Fantastic?” She interrupted incredulously, but he continued over the top of her.
     
     “You build up his hopes and then you destroy them just as easily. You behave as if your relationship
with him is a game.”
     
     “Excuse me?” Completely offended she interrupted again. Father hadn’t moved from his spot, but
‘Sebastian’ began whimpering loudly again.
     
     “And then you’ll break his heart, Catherine. You’ll leave and break his heart. But... I supposed that ‘s
something I can’t protect him from. You’ve already done that.”
     
     Near tears and furious, Catherine simply glared at him. The strain to keep her emotions under
control was evident in her voice. “Why does everyone seem to think that I’m here to hurt him? Look at
them, Father!” She indicated to the twins. “They’re so amazing and so beautiful! They couldn’t hurt him.
Look at them! They are what I’ve given him. They are why I’m here. These amazing and beautiful peace
offerings! How can they hurt him when they make the rest of the world so bright?” She sucked back the
impending tears. “They’re a gift, Father. Vincent gave them to me and they saved me. Once again,
Vincent saved me! Now I need to give them to him. I need to help him heal again. And you’ve got to let
me do it!”
     
     A moment went by, just a moment in silence. Father looked into Catherine’s eyes, and then into the
distorted and unique face of his grandson. Only a moment’s silence before it happened. “I think it would
be wise if you left, Catherine.”
     
     Completely taken back, she only stared at him, trying to capture his attention. “I’m sorry?”
     
     “You need to go... leave.” He answered, turning away and moving again to the larger pacing area of
the chamber.
     
     She laughed nervously; knowing, hoping, praying that this was a joke. “Where am I supposed to go?
I’ve got two children, and I can’t take care of them alone.”
     
     “We will care for the children and then,”
     
     “Father?” his seriousness was startling to her and she was beginning to recognize that he meant this.
     
     “When Vincent returns,” he continued over the top of her, “we will-“
     
     ”Father!”
     
     “Break this to him as gently as possible.”
     
     “Father!!” She yelled, her son now screaming at a three foot distance from her. She stared at Father,
trying to read his eyes, looking for some flicker of irony. He couldn’t be serious.
     
     But her was, and she could feel that revelation burning a hole in her heart. Now she was terrified. He
was really serious. He wanted her to leave not just the tunnels, but her children and Vincent as well.
     
     “Father, please give him to me.” She said as calmly as she could muster, raising her voice over the
baby’s screams. ‘Viola’ remained eerily silent even as Catherine balanced her in her crossed legs and
reached for ‘Sebastian’ with both hands.
     
     “He’ll be alright. Everything will be alright. It’s not as if this is forever. Just a chance for Vincent to get
adjusted.”
     
     “No Father! I’m not leaving. Give him to me now!” She argued, yelling out of necessity, but she’d
have yelled anyways.
     
     “It’s not an option, Catherine. I’m sorry.” Father backed away from her, but Catherine was on her feet
in a split second, wrapping Viola’s carrier straps over her shoulders hastily.
     
     “Give him to me NOW, Father!”




Secrets and Lies

      Anna awoke, devastated to find that she was all alone. Jacob was gone. When she wandered out
into the living room, she found her mother, bent over the morning paper, as she had found her for years.
The apartment was empty, devoid of all the wonderful smells that had flooded it the day before. It was as
if none of it had happened; as if she dreamed it all.
     
     “Good morning, sweet-pea!” Catherine gave a weak smile as her daughter entered the room. “Did
you sleep okay?”
     
     Anna nodded as she ran the back of her hand over her eyes, trying to wipe away the excess fatigue.
She looked around the room and then quietly asked. “Where’s Jacob?” The question was posed with
some hesitation. It was as if she had dreamed the last few weeks, and maybe such a person never
existed.
     
     Catherine looked up from her paper slowly and held out her hand for her little girl to sit beside her.
She molded the child against her and held her there for a moment before she answered. “His father took
him home last night. We didn’t want to wake you. You’d had a long day.”
     
     Anna looked up at her mother. “Will I ever see him again?” She asked, fear emanating from her very
being.
     
     “Yes, honey. You can see him any time you like. And he can stay any time he wants.” She kissed the
top of Anna’s soft hair.
     
     “Will Vincent still bring him every week?”
     
     Catherine paused a moment. She didn’t know what she had expected. She certainly didn’t expect
Anna to call him any variations of ‘father’... but Vincent’s name on his own child’s lips was so cold and
distant. It unnerved her almost to the point of blurting out the truth to the little girl, left so in the dark. “They’
ll come visit whenever they can, Anna. In the meantime, you have to understand that you cannot tell
anyone about either of them! Not a soul!”
     
     “Mom...” she had much more confidence, happy in the knowledge that she had not lost her best
friend, “I’ve known Jacob for weeks! And you had to catch us to find out.” She giggled slightly.
     
     Catherine laughed with her. “Well... I’m not sure if I’m angry or proud of you for that. But, I’m glad I
know that you can do it!” She hugged Anna closer and allowed the silence to fall.
     
     Anna brought her head up slowly, only just now realizing something. “Mama... do you know Vincent?”
     
     Immediately, Catherine regretted the silence. Ann would have figured it out anyways, she
rationalized. But this was a conversation she didn’t want to tackle for a little while longer. There was no
choice now. “Yes, honey. I knew Vincent. I was a Helper for a few years before you were born.”
     
     That was a bit of information Anna hadn’t expected. “Why didn’t you tell me?!”
     
     “You know why not.” Catherine told her logically. “I couldn’t tell anyone! Not even you.”
     
     Anna accepted that explanation. “Why aren’t you a Helper anymore?”
     
     “Well...” oh, why couldn’t Ann have been older when all of this came out? Instinct told her to blame it
all on Vincent... but she couldn’t do that. She’d already created enough of a bias between Vincent and
Anna, she didn’t want to add this on top of it. Not to mention, none of them were ready for the full truth to
come out, and that would certainly be a catalyst. “Ann... when I stopped Helping... a lot of things changed
when I found out I was pregnant for you. I had to build a whole new life around you, I left my job for a
while. My entire lifestyle changed.”
     
     “And my dad left.” Anna added quietly, having heard all these things before.
             
     Catherine swallowed hard. “And your father left.” She admitted. “That was the hardest of all.”
     
     “But they could have helped you!” Anna insisted with all of the innocence in her. “They’re such nice
people!”
     
     “Yes... they were wonderful. But... your father...” She breathed. “Caroline, I want you to be very grown-
up for me. Can you do that for me?” Her seven-year-old nodded. “When adults do things... many times it’
s because they are confused. They don’t know what to do, so they just do the first thing that they think of.”
A deep breath for courage. “I’m going to tell you something about your father,” Anna’s face brightened
ten-fold, but Catherine quickly stopped her, “you are not to tell anyone this! Do you understand? Not
even Jacob! I mean that! Do you promise?” Her excitement deflated only slightly, but she still eagerly
nodded her head in agreement.
     
     “I stopped Helping when your father left. I wanted to stay... I would have loved to stay. But... your
father was a member of the community. When he left... I wasn’t considered one of them anymore.”
     
     “My dad lived in the tunnels?” Anna leaned in closer as if she had just been told that her entire life
was a fairy story that she’d just been sucked into.
     
     “Yes. That’s how I met him. Everyone loved your father! He was a lot like you. He could meet
someone and just instantly form a friendship.”
     
     “Like me and Jacob!” Anna interjected excitedly.
     
     “Yes.” She admitted quietly. “Exactly like you and Jacob. So after your father and I split up, the
people in the tunnels... they were confused. So, they took sides and we all decided that it would be best
if I just didn’t come back.”
     
     “Were they mean to you?” Anna asked darkly.
     
     Catherine hesitated. Lie and protect her, or tell the truth and color her thoughts on a world that she
was still innocent to? “They were upset.” She decided. “They were upset with me... with your father, too I
think.”
     
     “Was Vincent one of them? One of the ones who was confused and upset? Is that why you guys were
fighting?” Anna starred up at her mother with an expression of desperate striving for understanding.
     
     “Yes.” Catherine answered with complete sincerity. “Vincent was very confused and very upset with
me. Maybe more than anyone else.”
     
     Anna was quiet for a few moments, and then lifted her head back up to her meet her mother’s gaze.
“I don’t think he’s mad at you anymore.” She stated plainly.
     
     “No? Why’s that?”
     
     “Cause... when he looks at you... he’s never mad. Even when you were fighting... he wasn’t looking at
you like he was angry at you.”
     
     Catherine tried to brush off the innocent remark that she wished hadn’t made her heart leap into her
throat. She ruffled Anna’s hair. “You two were supposed to be asleep.”
     
     “Well...” she sighed melodramatically, “it’s your fault for making it so interesting.”
     
     Catherine laughed. “You are incorrigible, you know that? Come on,” she resolutely shifted herself
and her daughter off of the couch, “we’re going out!”

*************************************************************        
     “What do you mean, ‘he’s come back’?” Jenny leaned over the table, whispering so that no one
could hear.
     
     Catherine kept a close eye on Anna, who sat inside the bookshop happy and attentive at the
storytelling in process. Catherine took a sip of her cappuccino and glanced through the window as if
assuring herself that Anna couldn’t hear her. The outside café adjoining the bookstore was not the ideal
spot for this conversation, but she had to make do. “I mean, he just showed up at the apartment the other
night.”
     
     “Just out of the blue?” Jenny’s wide eyes bore into Catherine’s as if trying to figure out if this was all
a practical joke. “What does he want?”
     
     “I haven’t figured that part out yet.” Catherine sighed. “He says he just wants to get to know Ann.”
     
     “After what... seven, eight years? He’s just gonna waltz back in and be a dad all of a sudden? How
did he even find out about her?”
     
     “Oh... mutual friends, I suppose.” Catherine answered non-chalantly, falling back into her old talents
of vague lies. “I dunno, Jen. I mean, honestly, I’m torn. Part of me is saying that he’s just gonna hurt her.
He’s gonna promise to be there and then he’s going to get scared and leave.”
     
     “Just like he did to you.” Jenny interjected quietly.
     
     “Yes... exactly. But the other part of me... he’s her father, Jen. I want them both to know each other.”
She sighed deeply. “I was in love with him, Jen. I really was.”
     
     “I know you were.” Jenny nodded sympathetically. “But, Cathy... he’s been gone seven years. That’s
longer than your relationship lasted! And now he just wants to jump on the band wagon and be a father?
It just doesn’t work like that.”
     
     “I know.” Catherine acknowledged sadly.
     
     “Does Anna know? That he’s her father?” Jenny asked, simultaneously looking in to check on the girl.
     
     “No. She has no idea. But she’s drawn to him. She was just so fascinated by him, it was almost
disturbing.” Catherine looked in and Anna was spread out on the floor on her belly, with her eyes closed,
envisioning the story... and looking oh so like Vincent. “He has that effect.” She informed her friend with
apparent irony in her voice. “You can’t help but be fascinated by him.”
     
     “Especially with Anna’s curious little mind.” Jenny added on.
     
     “She’ll figure it out, sooner or later.” Catherine let her thoughts out sadly. “Unfortunately, she is his
daughter, so it’ll probably be sooner rather than later.”
     
     Jenny studied Catherine’s far away gaze into the bookshop window. “How do you feel about him
coming back?”
     
     “I’m scared for Anna. I don’t want him to hurt her more than he’s already unknowingly done.”
     
     “No, Cath. How do you feel? Anna aside, what are you feeling right now?” Jenny watched her friend
critically, seeing the faintest of a whimsical smile appear and then quickly vanish.
     
     “I don’t know.” She dropped her head and sighed heavily.
     
     “Yes, you do.” Jenny stated plainly, causing Catherine to look up at her in slight shock. “You know
exactly how you’re feeling. You’re terrified. It’s written all over you. Cathy,” Jenny leaned over in
confidence, “I remember how you were while the two of you were together. I didn’t have to see you
together to see how he made you feel. You were the happiest I had ever seen you! More than that... you
were content, I’d even go as far as secure. You were so sure of everything.”
     
     “Yes, well...” Catherine mumbled, deliberately interrupting, “he has that effect on people... until he get
scared and leaves.”
     
     “Regardless,” Jenny brought her friend back to the point, “you were completely, fully in love with him.
More than I ever saw you with any of your boyfriends, even Steven. And now he’s come back with the
claim that he wants to be a part of his daughter’s life. And you’re terrified.”
     
     “That he’s going to hurt me again.” Catherine finished her thought.
     
     “That you’re going to fall in love with him again.” Jenny corrected her. Catherine dropped her eyes
trying to hide inside herself, without success. “And worse still,” Jenny tilted her head, trying to capture
Catherine’s eyes, “it’s too late. It’s already happened.”
     
     Catherine met her best friend’s gaze with heavy guilt. Her deepest feelings had just been revealed to
her, things she’d never even admit to herself had just been flung into the air, unable to be snatched up
and tucked away again. She swallowed hard. Jenny didn’t have it quite right. She hadn’t fallen in love
with Vincent again... she never stopped loving him. ‘Bury it! Push it away! Think of what he put you
through!’ But wasn’t it worth it? To have Anna and, in a strange distant way, Jacob too? He was back
again and he didn’t plan on leaving anytime soon. She wanted to hope so badly!
     
     “Mommy?” Little Anna approached her mother slowly. “Why are you crying?”
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