Rock-A-Bye

      “Where is she?” Peter raced in as fast as his feeble body would carry him.
      
      “There.” Lt. Sampson pointed to Catherine on the other end of the room. She was sitting on one of
the station benches, rocking the bundle in her arms. “I hope she’ll talk to you. She hasn’t spoken a word
since they found her. Not to the officers here that she knows... not even to Mr. Maxwell. He’s pretty
shaken up about it.”
      
      “Where is he?” Peter, ever the physician, made sure his examination wouldn’t be disturbed.
      
      “Getting her coffee.”
      
      “That’s the last thing she needs.” Peter shook his head. “No. When he comes back, tell him to keep
the coffee, it’ll do him more good than her. Tell him to bring crackers, bread, anything like that; and
some milk, whole milk. She needs something heavy and substantial in her stomach.”
      
      “Okay.” Sampson wrote it on a sticker note and stuck it to his desk to remind himself.
      
      Peter sat next to Catherine silently, feigning comfort. Finding a comfortable position, he settled
himself and cast quick glances at the woman who seemed not to notice him. “Cold out today.” He
stated blandly. There was no response, she only fussed over the babe in her arms. “Cathy?”
      
      Her eyes rolled toward him, but never acknowledged him with a look. She continued rocking the
little girl.
      
      “Cathy,” Peter’s voice broke to a whisper, “honey... where’s ‘Sebastian’?”
      
      Catherine took a deep, shaky breath. She stiffened a little, but soon went back to her rocking,
humming softly now.
      
      Peter stood, a thought occurring to him. He held out his hand to her. “Cathy? Will you come with
me?”
      
      Catherine’s eyes fell on the hand outstretched to her. Such a giving hand, so warm and safe. That
hand was the first worldly thing to connect with her. That hand meant help and fatherly strength. It
seemed to speak to her. “Everything will be alright, darling. Just come with me.” Or was that Peter
talking? It didn’t matter. She took his hand and climbed off the bench, the child held securely to her
breast.
      
      Inside the confines of the conference room, Peter set her in a chair and pulled another up next to
her. “Cathy... what happened, sweetheart?”
      
      Catherine’s breath shook with impending tears. The baby in her arms fussed. But she didn’t speak.
      
      “Cathy, honey... just tell me that he’s safe Below.” He took her jerky head movements for a nod.
“Thank God. Alright, tell me what happened.”
      
      Tears came rushing out of Catherine before she could stop them. “I can’t!” She finally gasped. “I
can’t!” She grabbed Peter’s collar and fell against him. All that mattered now was that she was in the
arms of the sure and steady. She had Peter, who she knew would never leave her, nor push her off. He
took the silent baby from her arms easily, and simply let her cry into his chest. The little girl’s bright eyes
stared up at him inquisitively. Almost as if she were already intelligent enough to ask him, “what’s wrong
with Mommy?”
      
      The door broke open to the excitement and noise of a police station, but neither Catherine or Peter
broke their positions. Joe came running into the conference room, his arms full.
      
      “What can I do?” He began piling groceries onto the table. “I brought coffee, but then, I thought
maybe she was hungry. Cathy...” he seemed to only just have noticed that she was crying, “it’s okay. It’s
alright now.”
      
      “The coffee’s for me.” Peter commandeered the cup and examined the groceries on the table as
Catherine cried harder. “She won’t want to eat for a while. Why don’t you just sit, Joe? Let her cry it out
some. Here...” Peter held out the baby, but on second thought, consulted the mother. “Catherine, can
Joe take her just for a little while?” Catherine nodded, without a second’s hesitation. Whatever Peter
wanted was perfectly fine with her. She was safe now, she knew.
      
      Finally positioned correctly, Joe held the tiny infant in his arms. He began to tremble a little. So
much power of life in this tiny being. Just as there was power of strength in her mother. And they had
almost lost them. The temper in Joe flared at the thought.
      
      “You were supposed to be talking care of them!” He suddenly hurled at Peter. “You did this to them!
You were supposed to be protecting them!”
      
      Peter kept his calm, serene face, though deeply wounded. “I thought I sent them to a safe place.”
He stroked Catherine’s hair as she convulsed with sobs against him. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”




What Dreams May Come

      “Stay warm now.” Catherine fussed over Anna, wrapping her up in her red scarf. “And be good.
Listen to what you’re told. Have fun... above all, have fun!” She kissed her and watched the girl giggle.
      
      “You act like I’m never coming back. I’ll see you on Sunday. We’ve done this loads of times with
Aunt Jenny.”
      
      “I know.” She admitted quietly, unwilling to announce her fears. She wrapped Anna up in the
millionth hug and kissed her again. “I love you! And don’t ever stop believing that, no matter what
anyone says.”
      
      “Okay.” Anna mocked her with a smile.
      
      “Don’t worry.” Jacob took Anna’s hand, his excitement hardly able to contain itself now. “We’ll take
care of her.”
      
      “I know you will.” Catherine touched Jacob’s fury cheek softly and then lifted her eyes to Vincent.
“Well,” she began with an unsteady breath, “time to trade off.”
      
      Jacob and Anna needed no more permission. They took off, out of her grasp for another hug.
Perched on the fire escape, they peered in, obediently waiting for Vincent.
      
      Catherine tried to swallow the lump in her throat, but it was stuck and wouldn’t budge. Her feigned
confidence had completely dropped and she locked eyes with Vincent, fighting her tears with
everything in her. He stepped toward her, hoping that she would accept this bit of warmth from him. He
attempted to hide his excitement when she didn’t back away, nor flinch from his large hand on her small
shoulder.
      
      “Catherine,” he was losing the battle with his emotions, “she’ll be alright. I promise.”
      
      Catherine breathed deeply, giving a shaky nod. Were she not so terrified at the moment, the simple
touch of his hand would have compelled her to kiss him. But at the moment it was just Vincent’s warm
hand, giving comfort as ever. Steadily she gazed into the vast, azure ocean of his eyes and without
caring if the twins heard, she implored her words to him. “Don’t let them say anything about me...
please.”
      
      A bit confused at her choice of words, he only nodded in reassurance. “She’ll be back Sunday
night; 7:30 sharp.”
      
      She nodded again, closing her eyes to barricade against her tears, and accidently letting one slip
past. Soft fur was suddenly stroking her cheek where the salty stream had fallen. She tried to stiffen
herself against it, but found herself unable. She was forced to surrender to his touch.
      
      “Catherine...” he began, as if he actually had a reason to speak.
      
      He heart ached. Her life used to be devoted to hearing her name on his lips. Sweet and soft, raspy
and haggard both. She had learned to live without it; to simply be ‘Cathy’ once again. But here he was,
brushing away her tears, consoling her, and suddenly she was ‘Catherine’ again. She was within reach
of being ‘Vincent’s Catherine’ even. All she needed was to look into his eyes, to fall into his arms... to
kiss him. It was so easy to have him again. He was right there, so sweet and willing. They were so
close.
      
      “You’d better go.” She answered quietly, never raising her eyes to his. She didn’t look to see if he
was hurt or disappointed, she just let him go.
      
      “Bye Mom!” Anna called as she crawled down the railing after Jacob.
      
      She passively waived, faking a smile that passed more for a grimace. She ran to the window when
she could no longer see them and watched as the three retreated into the dark alley. She set her hands
on the sill, ready to close it.
      
     
 “Long ago," he said, "I thought like you that my mother would always keep the window open
for me, so I stayed away for moons and moons and moons, and then flew back; but the window
was barred, for mother had forgotten all about me, and there was another little boy sleeping in
my bed."
      
      No. The window would always be left open for her Wendy and Peter... always.

*************************************************************
      “Hello?” Joe groggily answered the ringing phone with dread. What time was it?
     
       2:00am.
      
      Damn! He was determined to get a full night’s sleep tonight, and sleep in if possible. If some idiot
was slashed on the street, disturbing his Friday night/ Saturday morning sleep, he was going to scream!
      
      “Cathy?” He was upright in bed and alert now. Something was wrong. “Cathy, where are you?” She
was sobbing into the phone, he could barely understand her. “Cath... Cathy! Is Anna alright?”
      
      More tear-obstructed words, nonsense really, and he was out of bed, the cordless phone
sandwiched between his shoulder and ear. He dressed even as he spoke. “Okay, Cath, calm down! I’ll
be over in a few minutes, okay? I’ll be right there!” He hit the off button and tossed it on the bed, not
caring where it landed.

*************************************************************
      “Cathy!” Joe pounded on her apartment door. “Cathy, open the door, it’s me!!” The familiar sound
of bolts and chains unhooking, and the wrenching of the doorknob open, and there she was.
      
      Her face was flushed and tear-stained. Her beautiful hair, always full of shine and body, was now
flat and stringy around her face. Her body, forever strong and prepared, seemed melted and she felt as
if she might collapse to the floor except that she fell into his arms.
      
      “I’m sorry.” She sobbed. “I didn’t know who else to call.” She moved away now and it took
everything in him not to pull her back against him and hold her forever. “Jenny’s on her date, and Peter’
s at the hospital, and...”
      
      “Okay... it’s okay.” Joe took her shoulders and turned her to face him. “Where’s Annie?”
      
      “She’s gone!” The thought that had plagued her since the moment her baby had escaped out into
the night.
      
      “What do you mean, ‘gone’?” Joe was panicking now. “Where did she go?!”
      
      Catherine took a sharp breath that seemed to instantly clear her tears. “Um...” she was searching
now. Joe knew that look well.
      
      “Look, Cath... you tell me where she is, I will go and get her. It’s simple as that.”
      
      Catherine stood still, the remnants of her sobs still shaking her as she read his eyes. There was
fear there, so much fear. And anger... plenty of that too. He was ready to storm whatever unreachable
castle held his little princess in it’s far away tower. And he would, with fury and... probably even guns
ablaze!
      
      She shook her head slowly. “It’s not so simple.” She spoke slowly, and moved out of his grasp to
settle on the couch. “I’m sorry I woke you, Joe. Go on home, get some sleep.”
      
      “No...” he sat next to her, his intense gaze assuring her that he wasn’t going anywhere, “tell me what’
s going on, Cathy! I’m tired of being out of the loop! Now, you’ve dragged me out of bed at an ungodly
hour, scared me half to death, and then tell me that it’s nothing? That doesn’t work this time. Where is
Anna?”
      
      She was trapped. She had used up all of her free passes with Joe. ‘Just don’t ask’ wasn’t going to
work anymore. She had dragged him into it this time. He deserved something. Her brain just kept
saying, ‘wouldn’t a nice thank-you note suffice?’ But no, he needed more... he had earned it for nine
years of simply trusting.
      
      “I let her go.” Catherine relented, falling into the corner of the couch, relying on it to support her.
      
      “Where?!”
      
      She hesitated, and then looked away. She didn’t want to see his reaction to this. “To her father’s for
the weekend.”
      
      There was silence. Had he heard her? Had she only thought she’d said it out loud? She ventured a
look at him. He had heard her, and was now pale, silent, and staring at her with such anger that she
leaned away from him.
      
      “When were you planning on telling me he’d come back?” He asked quietly.
      
      Just the sound of his voice, low and terrible, terrified her. “Never.” She spoke honestly, but readied
herself for the storm.
      
      “When?”
      
      “Around late June, early July maybe.”
      
      He turned away, shaking his head with a disgusted snort. “That’s why.” He said quietly, and then
jumped to his feet. “The damned zoo trip! We’d been planning it for three months! And all of a sudden
she doesn’t want to go!”
      
      “Joe.” She was trying to get his attention, albeit weakly. She wouldn’t scold him for this. She knew
this was how he’d react. He had help raise Anna... and now someone was trying to replace him in that
fatherly role.
      
      “Was she even sick last week, Cathy?” He spun on her.
      
      She shook her head silently. “He’s been visiting every weekend.”
      
      “So... so what? Now she’s gonna ignore me? All of a sudden the man who abandoned her is a
freakin’ hero? Who the hell does he even think he is? No phone calls, no letters, no visits... not for seven
years, and suddenly he’s Father of the Year? What about everything I’ve done for her? The things I’ve
sacrificed?”
      
      “Joe!” She stopped him before he was finished. “She doesn’t know, first of all. Neither of us have
told her that he’s her father. Second of all, she’s seven! You can’t blame a seven year old for being the
way she is. Her focus shifts in so many different directions, sometimes I can’t even keep up! At the
moment...” should she reveal him? Yes, it was time. “Vincent,” she spoke his name as if she were
introducing Joe to him, “is just an infatuation. She’s curious about him. And you know... when she gets
curious, you can’t tear her away.”
      
      Joe hadn’t heard a word past the man’s name; Vincent. Suddenly that mystery man had a name;
Vincent. Well no wonder Cathy had fall so hard for him... one of those fancy, artsy names. Vincent; he
sounded arrogant and snobbish... French. He imagined a pale, thin man with his nose so high in the air,
he’d drown if it rained. ‘Vincent’ wore a beret and smoked personally rolled cigarettes, the prick! He
spoke with an accent, of course, of how “dull” life in New York was. And how the art, music, and culture
didn’t even begin to compare with that in France. He imagined Cathy, beautifully made up to the picture
of perfection, hanging on ‘Vincent’s’ arm. His stomach turned on him, threatening to push his dinner
back up. But worse, he imagined sweet little Anna, her chin set in her hands and her eyes wide, taking
in all that this arrogant bastard had to say about fashioning her for a more respectable and prominent
life in society. Now, not only was he sick, but he was angry, his fury bubbling over. He wouldn’t be
replaced by some smug asshole who wanted to tame her sweet, impetuous nature... Anna’s or Cathy’s!
      
      “Joe... don’t.” Catherine’s voice suddenly broke through to him.
      
      “What?” He was surprised at how low and gruff his voice sounded.
      
      “I know that look.” She watched him suspiciously.
      
      “What look?”
      
      “The one you get right before you convict a serial killer. I know because it’s the same face you
make every time the radio in your office breaks.”
      
      He shot her an annoyed glance for making a joke at his expense. He twisted his hands,
pondering... brooding. “Does anyone else know about him?”
      
      “Well...” she began nervously, knowing he was about to get upset all over again, “Peter has known
Vincent as long as he’s known me.”
      
      “That’s not what I asked!” He snapped. Just that creep’s name made his skin crawl.
      
      “I told Jenny.” She admitted quietly.
      
      “Of course you did!” He started his tirade with a sarcastic tone. “Because it makes perfect sense to
tell Jenny without telling me! I can’t believe I didn’t think of that!”
      
      “Joe,” she did not want to hear this and she tried desperately to avoid it, “it was just that I needed to
talk to a girl! I was upset, I was confused, and Jenny knows a little more about that sort of thing than you
do!”
      
      “You’ve come to me before, Cathy. You came to me about the stalker, the artist who was bothering
you,” she didn’t even try to contradict him. “Even when the police found you wandering Central Park with
a baby strapped to the front of you, you gave them my name! Why? Because I can take care of it!
Because I have proved time and time again that I will always take care of you and Annie. Why not come
to me when he came back? Tell me Cathy, why?!”
      
      “Because I was afraid that you would take care of it!” She hollered back at him. “Because I knew
that you would hunt him down and scare him off, and I wasn’t sure if I wanted that! For Anna, I mean.”
      
      “Then why call me tonight, Cathy?” He was starting to calm down.
      
      “Because I wanted you to take care of me!” She hollered and then froze. They stared, panting to
catch their breaths. Finally she regained her tongue. “Some part of me was so afraid for Ann that I
called because I knew that you would come for me.” She looked at her hands. Why was she still
talking? “I haven’t had someone come to my rescue for a very long time, Joe. I needed you to be my
hero tonight.”
      
      “Cathy...” Joe moved closer to her, speaking softly, “I will always rescue you!” He brushed a fresh
tear off of her cheek, letting his hand indulge in the feel of her soft skin.
      
      It was now or never, and Joe leaned in without hesitation. His head dipped low, finding her sweet
lips and he kissed her, ever so softly. He expected... well, he didn’t know what to expect. Maybe that
she would push him away and slap his face. Or, at best, that she would fall into his arms and, like some
old movie, they would live happily ever after. But neither happened. She only let him kiss her; she didn’t
pull away and she didn’t try to kiss him back. So, gaining a bit more courage, he ran his fingers through
her hair and supported her head, tilting her into the kiss. She accepted this, but nothing more, letting it
be only a simple brush-of-the-lips kiss.
      
      It was the truth. She knew it was the truth. He would always come for her, he would always rescue
her. Oh, how that felt good to hear. It had been so long. She parted her lips, accepting the kiss more,
and he took the initiative once again. This hadn’t happened for so long! In some far away, distant land,
she’d had boyfriends who took the initiative to kiss her first, to love her without hesitation. All she had to
do was be there, there was no effort. She never had to push or coax, they were always very willing to
show her their affection. Suddenly, there he was again. Strong and determined, he deepened the kiss,
wrapping his arms around her now. She was held securely against him. And there was nothing but his
body and the sensation of his mouth against hers. So much love, such that she had lost so long ago. He
loved her... he loved Anna, his daughter. And Jacob.
      
      Images flashed before Catherine’s closed eyes as she kissed him deeply.
      
      Jacob and Anna. The mirror pool. The balcony of her old apartment. Father, Mary, Mouse, Jamie,
Samantha. Geoffrey, Eric and Ellie. His chamber. Winterfest. Everyone dancing, everyone laughing.
The River of Voices. The waterfalls. Him swimming. Their kiss. That sweet kiss.
      
      She fell into that sweet kiss, lost in memories. Her most happy memories. Her most tragic
memories. Her life as a woman in her own personal fairy story. He had control of this moment... finally.
      
      “Cathy...” Joe breathed her name into her own mouth.
      
      Catherine’s eyes flew open. That was not the name she’d expected to hear. Not the Jersey accent
‘Cathy’, but the raspy, dreamy, medieval sound of ‘Catherine’. She had lost herself. It was happening all
over again. She was losing herself in the arms of another man because she couldn’t lose herself to
Vincent. She had to stop! She had to stop this!
      
      Joe pulled her against him again, kissing her without restraint, barely noticing that she was no
longer a part of this. She tried to subtly slip away, but he held her close, he wasn’t going to let go. How
was she going to do this without hurting him?
      
      Finally admitting that there was no other way, she set her hand against his chest and pushed him
gently, but firmly, away from her. “Joe. Wait... no!”
      
      “What?” He asked breathlessly, staring at her with such adoration that it broke her heart.
      
      “I’m sorry.” She finally escaped from his arms, getting up to pace. “I can’t do this again. I’m sorry.”
      
      “What? What’s so wrong with this, Cathy?” He breathed. “I love you! You’re all I ever think about! I
wish I could get you out of my head, but I can’t!” There, he’d said it. It had taken him nine years, but he
finally told her how he felt. Now, he swooped in for the kill. “He’s never coming back for you, Cath. He’s
here for now, and he may want to play ‘daddy’ for a little while, but he’ll eventually hurt you both again.
There’s nothing I’d like better than to prevent that, but I can’t. You’ve been holding out for him for seven
years, and you’ve known damn well that nothing would ever come of it. You’re just the same as me.”
      
      She only stared at him shyly. She took in all that he said, but when he was finished all she could do
was apologize again. “I’m sorry, Joe. I really am. I just can’t do this.” This was final. She was sure now.
She would never love Joe or any other man... her heart would forever be bound to Vincent... lost cause
or not.
      
      Joe sighed. He sat still for a moment, hoping that she would come to her senses. Hoping that she
would come back to him. Finally he got up and made his way to the door. He unhooked the latch and
turned back to her, his hand wrapped around the doorknob for a quick getaway. “He’ll just break your
heart, you know that.”
      
      Catherine only nodded sincerely. She wouldn’t and couldn’t change her mind. She couldn’t lie to
herself anymore.
      
      Joe sighed again. “She’ll be alright, Radcliffe. She’s a tough little kid. You don’t need to worry about
her.” He told her what she wanted to hear, nothing more. Nothing more than a friend.
      
      “Thank you, Joe.” She tried to smile at him, but decided it was inappropriate.
      
      He pulled the door open. “Lock it behind me.” He advised... a friend. “G’night.” The door shut
behind him.
      
      Catherine breathed. Suddenly she could breathe! She walked unsteadily around her livingroom,
tracing the furniture. Something was different. She was lighter, airier. She’d broken free of some
restraint, but she wasn’t sure what it was. But she was okay. Nothing was complicated anymore. She
loved Vincent... and that was okay! She was happy suddenly! Purely happy!
      
      All of a sudden, just acting on instinct, she took off running down the hall, as fast as her feet would
carry her. Without stopping, she threw Anna’s bedroom door open and skid into the doorframe. The tiny
room was black except for the moon that shown through the window. The moonlight fell on a shadowy
silhouette presented like a picture set in the window casing.
      
      “You came for me.” She breathed, her heart pounding.
      
      He didn’t answer her. Just one fluid movement and he had pulled her into his arms, kissing her
desperately. Too soon, but slowly, he loosened his grip and let her feet fall back to the floor. The kiss
broke and Catherine and Vincent attempted to catch their breaths.
      
      “Was that alright?” He asked shyly, betraying the confidence he’s just shown.
      
      Catherine nodded, her mouth hanging open, unable to speak. “Am I dreaming?” She finally
managed.
      
      Vincent shook his head. They laughed for a moment in amazement of each other. In ten minutes
their entire worlds had changed. But, why not? That’s how it had been the night he had first found her. “I
think I will have that tea now.” Vincent led Catherine out of their daughter’s bedroom and down the hall.
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