Vincent moved quietly and more slowly than usual. He held his son’s hand tightly, determined that little
Jacob would not run away from him again. One more tree. He promised his son one more tree to climb
before he was taken back to the tunnels and put to bed. “How about that one?” Vincent suggested,
pointing to a short, stubby tree.
Jacob made a face to match his disapproval. “That’s not a tree!” He insisted. “A little farther this way.”
The boy instructed and pulled his father closer to the edge of the park.
“Jacob, it’s getting very cold. Please, just pick a tree.” Vincent begged.
“That one!” Jacob proclaimed, pointing to a tall and mighty tree standing on it’s own. He took off
running, leaving his father far behind him. In moments he was at the base of the tree, ready to climb. He
couldn’t even hear his father’s protests, he just set the toe of his boot in a knot on the tree and began to
“Jacob!” Vincent reached the base of the tree by the time his son made it to the second branch.
“Jacob, not too high!” He warned.
“Father, it’s my birthday. I’m six years old now, I think I can take care of myself.” Jacob rolled his eyes
“Oh, well, of course, you’re right son.” Vincent mumbled, defeated, as he threw his arms in the air and
let them fall. “Six years old, you should be perfectly capable of not falling and splitting your head open.”
“Father!” Jacob called down from the higher branches. “You should see this! I can see out into the
“Jacob, that’s too high!” Vincent called, looking for a way to climb up there himself, if necessary.
“I can even see people!” Jacob continued, never acknowledging his father. “There’s a woman and a
little girl just outside the park!”
“Alright, Jacob, you’ve climbed the tree, that’s enough. Now climb down.” Vincent stated firmly.
“What are they doing?” Jacob crawled along the length of the branch to get a better view.
“Jacob!” Vincent called. “That’s enough! Climb down now!”
“Alright.” Jacob rolled his eyes and slid himself back to the trunk of the tree. Once his feet were firmly
planted on the ground, Jacob looked up at his father with bright eyes. “Let’s go out into the city tonight!”
“No, Jacob. I don’t like you going out into the city even when I’m with you. It’s too dangerous.” Vincent
took Jacob’s hand and led him back towards home.
“You never let me do anything fun.” Jacob miserably kicked the snow built up along the path.
Vincent sighed and, still walking, looked down at his son. “Does the air taste different when you’re up
high in those trees, Jacob?”
Slowly Jacob’s eyes met his father’s and a smile crossed his face. “Crisper.” He nodded. “And it
smells like peppermint sometimes too.”
“Does it?” Vincent strolled with his son casually. “What else?”
“Let’s see, we’ve gotten you some new ‘Little House’ books, and some puzzle books. I think this
birthday’s just about complete.” Catherine proclaimed as she walked along the hedges of Central Park,
holding her daughter’s hand.
“Yeah.” Anna agreed, a little downhearted. “But I really wanted the Romeo and Juliet book.”
“Sweetheart, you can’t even read that yet.” Catherine tried to reason with her child. Anna’s head fell
even further into her chest with something that sounded like ‘I know’. “And remember,” Catherine added,
trying to lift the girl’s spirits, “Santa’s coming soon. You have to leave something for him to get you.”
Anna rolled her eyes at her mother. “I guess.” She agreed quietly, tired of arguing. The ‘Santa Clause’
argument had gone on for years, and still Catherine insisted in his existence. Anna just let her mother
have her beliefs.
“Hey! What do you say we get some ice cream on the way back?” Catherine suggested
“But you hate ice cream in the winter.” Anna reminded her, but hope was suddenly kindled in her little
“Maybe so.” Catherine shrugged. “But Miss Caroline Anna Chandler is six years old today, and how
often does that happen, huh? Besides, I bet the shop is nice and warm inside. What do you think?”
“Yeah!!” Anna skipped, excited for the first time in hours.
The pair stood at the crosswalk, waiting for the light to change. Anna turned backwards to face
Central Park and attempted to gaze through the trees inside.
“Mama, can we go for a walk in the park?” Anna, suddenly so enthralled, she tugged her mother’s
Catherine barely glanced at the foliage behind her before passing judgment. “No, Ann.”
“But we never go for a walk in the park.” She whined. “Please?”
“No, Anna, not tonight.” Catherine attempted to stop the argument there.
“I thought you wanted ice cream!” Catherine spoke a little too harshly. Anna lowered her eyes sadly,
looking as if she would cry. She deliberately kicked the flakes of snow left over on the sidewalk.
Catherine looked down at her, sighed, and watched her for a moment more.
Anna’s head came up quickly as Catherine ran her index finger along the bridge of her little nose.
Anna starred curiously at her mother, who held her thumb tightly between her index and middle finger.
“I got your nose.” Catherine told her, showing her the demonstration with her fingers.
Anna smiled despite herself. “Nuh-uh.”
“Yup,” Catherine nodded, “I stole your nose and you’re not getting it back. It’s a cute little nose, I think I’
ll keep it.”
“No, my nose is right here.” Anna insisted, carefully touching her nose to be sure that what she
claimed was true.
“Well, I don’t know what’s there on your face, but I do know that I have your nose right here and you’re
not getting it back.” Catherine taunted and teased. Anything to elicit some imagination from her child.
“Mommy,” Anna pointed to her mother’s woven fingers, “that’s not my nose. It’s just your thumb.”
“Alright, suit yourself.” Catherine shrugged casually. “But don’t say I didn’t warn you when you can’t
smell your dinner tonight.”
Anna sighed heavily and rolled her eyes. She couldn’t wipe the silly grin off of her face as she played
along with the charade. “Alright... may I please have my nose back, Mama?”
Catherine smiled down at her daughter. “Well, certainly, Miss Anna.” She pressed her thumb against
Anna’s nose as she unlocked her fingers. “There you go.”
“Thank you.” Little Anna accepted cordially. “The light’s changed.” She informed almost in the same
“Okay,” Catherine laughed, “come on, kiddo.”
Anna followed her mother across the street, but kept looking back at the park. “I wonder what’s in
there.” She thought aloud.
“What’s that, baby?”
“Nothing.” Anna replied quickly and followed obediently.
Jacob and Anna giggled together on the couch of Catherine’s apartment. “Mom! Mama! This is silly!”
Anna called into the kitchen. “We already had a birthday party Below.”
“Keep those eyes closed!” Catherine called her warning from the kitchen.
“Mom!” Jacob called now, eyes obediently closed. “Mom, Anna’s right. Why are we having another
“You mean you don’t want more cake and ice cream?” Vincent asked from his place beside
“No! We want it! We want it!” The children bounced in their place.
“Okay, are you ready?” Catherine tried to see her twins through the open door.
“Yeah!” The twins called in unison.
“Are your eyes closed?” Vincent ran to the door to be sure.
“No peaking, Anna.” Vincent warned.
“Hurry up then!” Anna whined, her eyes closed tight again.
There was silence and then their parent’s voices were much closer. “Okay, open your eyes.”
Jacob’s eyes were the size of half-dollars as he stared at the ice-cream cake sitting in front of him. It
was the most perfect and beautiful cake he had ever seen. And how ingenious that is combined the two
“It’s not homemade with love.” Catherine began with a sigh. “You’ll find out soon enough, I’m not a
fabulous chef, Jacob. But I thought you might like it.”
“Happy 8th Birthday, Jacob and Anna. Love, Mom and Dad.” Jacob read quietly aloud, his eyes still
Anna craned her neck around to see her brother’s face and then giggled. “I think he’s in shock!”
“Do you like it?” Catherine asked, worried.
“It’s beautiful.” Jacob nodded vigorously.
“I told you he’d love it.” Vincent smiled confidently at Catherine.
“Okay!” Anna jumped forward, clapping. “Let’s eat it!”
“No!” Jacob threw his arm out to stop her. “We can’t eat this. It’s beautiful!” He scolded.
“Jacob, it’s not going to stay perfect for long, you may as well eat it.” Vincent reasoned.
“Just a minute longer, father. It’s just too pretty.” Jacob leaned closer to it.
“I’ll tell you what,” Catherine ran to her desk drawer and extracted her camera, “we’ll take a picture,
and then you’ll have it forever.”
“Should I...” Vincent mumbled to Catherine, who seemed to understand what he was talking about.
“Sure! You do that, I’ll do this.” She nodded as she aimed the camera at the ice-cream cake.
“Alright,” he began the announcement, “these are from your mother and I.” Vincent revealed two large
gift bags from behind his back and presented one to each twin.
Anna’s eyes lit up and she sat forward, taking the bag from Vincent greedily. Jacob shyly took the
bag, but his face glowed with the prospect. Presents Below were never packaged this beautifully. Slowly,
the twins began digging through the vast amounts of tissue paper, searching for their gifts.
A bright flash came suddenly and a sharp snap to accompany it. The twins and Vincent turned quickly
to find Catherine lowering the camera sheepishly. “Sorry. We’ll hide that one.” She promised.
The children went back to their digging, looking over each other’s shoulder to see if the other had
found anything yet. Catherine touched Vincent’s arm lightly. “I’m going to find something to cut that cake
with.” He nodded and she rushed into the kitchen.
“Mama...” Anna inhaled, pulling her gift out slowly, “it’s so...”
The soft ding of the doorbell sounded and the world froze. Slowly Catherine emerged from the
kitchen. Any smiles were gone, they all stared at the door, holding their breaths, willing the intruders to go
The doorbell rang again. Vincent and Catherine glanced quickly at each other. In silent, but quick,
movements Vincent grabbed Jacob’s hand and began pulling him out of the livingroom. Catherine pulled
Anna off of the couch and whispered, “hide them”, to her, and shoved the little girl toward the retreating
pair. As she walked toward the door. Catherine attempted to regain her composure. But, she glanced
back and her stomach plummeted. The room was full of traces of Vincent and Jacob. The gift bag had
‘Jacob’ written in bold letters on it, and Vincent’s cloak was draped casually over the easy chair.
The door was suddenly pounded on. “Cathy!” Joe was yelling from the other side. “Cathy, I know you
two are home! Open the door!”
Catherine glanced around the room. There was nowhere to hide the evidence.
“Cathy! Cathy, open the door!”
She swallowed hard, hands shaking. There was nothing she could do, and Joe was about to break
down the door. With a deep breath and an attempt at looking normal, Catherine unlocked the bolt and
pulled the door open.
“Joe!... And Jenny! What are you guys doing here?” Catherine tried to sound casual.
“I’m sorry, Cathy.” Jenny spoke quickly from behind Joe. “I tried to tell him this was a bad idea, but...”
“Where’s Annie?” Joe suddenly demanded.
“I’m sorry!” Jenny’s panicked whisper rose from the back.
“Joe, what’s going on?” Catherine tried to reason with him without actually letting him in.
“It’s nothing.” Jenny tried to interrupt. “Really, Joe, it’s not a big deal.”
“Jenny, the first time it wasn’t a big deal. The second time wasn’t even a big deal. But this is the fifth
time and it’s becoming an issue.” Joe argued. “Annie!” He called over Catherine’s shoulder.
“Joe, stop! What’s this about?” Catherine tried to block his view as he ducked around and attempted
to see behind her.
“Carrie Ann!” Joe called into the apartment, his tone was a harsh warning.
“Joe!” Jenny protested and then turned her apologetic stare to Catherine. “I’m so sorry.”
“Anna!” Joe called, and this time he pushed the door open and charged into the apartment. Jenny
followed to catch him, but ended up next to him, just as confused by the state of the livingroom as Joe. He
looked inquisitively at Catherine who tried, unsuccessfully, to look innocent.
Joe opened his mouth to speak, but a loud crash interrupted him. He didn’t hesitate, he just set off
toward the sound as if he were hunting down little Anna.
“Joe! This is crazy! Joe! Stop!” Jenny followed him to the back of the apartment.
Catherine was quicker than all of them. She pushed Jenny back behind her and ducked past Joe to
stand in his way of Anna’s bedroom door. “Stop, for two seconds, and tell me what’s going on!” She
demanded, blocking the door with her whole body.
“Annie and I just need to have a talk. Annie!” Joe explained in a huff and then reached over Catherine
to pound on the bedroom door.
“Joe!” Both women scolded, but he paid no mind.
Catherine nearly fell backwards when the door suddenly opened and Anna stared curiously up at the
adults. “Yes, Uncle Joe?” she inquired sweetly.
“Annie,” Joe began as Catherine tried to discreetly search the room, “we have to talk to you.” He
started into her room, but Anna stood in his way.
“No! Not in here. We’ll talk in the livingroom.” Anna glanced at Catherine for confirmation, but she
jerked her head in a ‘no’ motion. “Or we could go in the kitchen!” She quickly changed.
Joe eyed Catherine and Anna for moment, suspicious. Anna shrugged and smiled sweetly at him.
Only then did Joe’s face go truly dark and brooding. “He’s here, isn’t he?”
“Joe...” Jenny warned softly from behind him.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Anna told him stoically, eyebrows raised.
All was quiet for a moment. Joe glanced between mother and daughter, trying to determine if he
believed their claim. Then, seemingly from nowhere, there was a light tapping noise. It ended almost as it
began, but Joe located it and charged straight for it with the rest of the group trying to stop him.
“The closet? Really, Cathy? That is just so,” Joe yanked the closet doors open, reached in and threw
the body he grabbed out into the open, “pathetic!”
Little Jacob whirled, screaming, out of the closet. Thrown off balance, he fell flat on his back, revealing
him completely in the dim artificial light.
At the sight of him, Joe fell back against the wall. Jenny was backed up against the wall next to the
door, staring at the little boy, truly horrified. Anna had fallen to the floor next to her brother, ready to fight
off anyone who came near.
The window was suddenly thrown open and a low snarl was issued from the dark night beyond it.
From behind Catherine, a tall hulk-like figure emerged, growing larger as he drew closer. The snarls grew
louder and longer as Joe blindly searched the closet for a weapon.
“Stop!” Catherine screamed, her eyes closed and her arms thrown out to either side of herself. One
arm was outstretched toward Joe, and the other actually made contact, holding off Vincent. “Everybody
just stop!” She looked down, arms still stretched wide, and found Jacob’s pale, terrified face searching
for an escape. “Jacob?” She called softly. “Baby, are you okay?”
Jacob’s eyes made contact with her only once. He was watching Joe and Jenny intently waiting for
one of them to advance. He didn’t even notice that he had begun to cry. With heavy labored breaths, he
shook his head and slid himself back into his mother’s legs.
Anna flipped herself around and slid close to her brother, trying to reassure him. “It’s okay, Jacob. It’s
gonna be okay, they won’t hurt you.”
“Joe, drop the curtain rod.” Catherine warned and Joe immediately complied. She turned to Vincent,
her voice just as foreboding. “Don’t move.” She told him. And, with an eye on both men, she sunk down to
the floor. Jacob immediately crawled into Catherine’s arms, clinging to her and burying his face in her
shoulder. He shivered as he sobbed and she rubbed his back to try to calm him. “It’s alright. It’s okay. Are
you hurt? Jacob, are you hurt?” He shook his head again, unable to speak through his sobs. “Okay... it’s
Vincent was breathing loudly. He stood over Catherine and the children, staring Joe and Jenny down.
His expression seemed to dare them to come any closer. “Catherine?” His eyes never fell to her, but Joe
shrank away, stunned, when he spoke her name.
“He’s fine.” She assured. “Just frightened.”
With an odd sort of smile that bordered on psychotic, Jenny took a shaky step away from the wall.
“You’re Vincent.” She stated, the only certain thing coming from her.
Vincent looked down at Catherine, who took a relenting breath and nodded. “I am.” He confirmed,
glancing at Jenny, but his eyes trained on Joe.
“You’re Vincent?” Joe’s eyes seemed to grow even larger as he took in Vincent’s appearance in a
whole new way. “This is him?” He spat at Catherine. She looked away, intent on calming Jacob down. “I
don’t believe this.” He mumbled. “I’m dreaming! This is a nightmare!”
Jenny took another step forward, a little more sure this time. “I’m Jenny... Aaronson. Jenny Aaronson.”
She spit out.
“It’s good to finally meet you, Jenny.” Vincent spoke kindly to her, but his eyes, now locked on Joe,
were telling a different story.
“Then who the hell is that?” Joe yelled, pointing at the little boy attached to Catherine.
Catherine took a deep breath, gathering courage. “His name is Jacob.” She announced and then
another breath for courage. “He’s my son.”
Jenny’s fascination with Vincent immediately broke. She was focusing on Catherine now. “Excuse
“That’s not possible.” Joe breathed shrinking even further into the corner.
Anna shot him a hard glare over her should. “What do you know?” She shouted. “You scared him,
Uncle Joe!” She turned back to her brother and touched his arm.
The adults watched as, slowly, the boy stopped crying. He shifted slightly in Catherine’s arms, pulling
his head off her shoulder and facing Anna. She took his hand and stared directly into his eyes. Jacob
blinking away the last few tears and swallowed the lump that had built in his throat. With a few deep
breaths, Jacob nodded slowly to Anna.
“Okay?” Anna assured.
“Okay.” Jacob confirmed in a whisper. But he held onto Catherine’s arms tightly still.
“Jacob?” Vincent called, his eyes fixed back on Joe, the immediate threat.
“I’m okay, father.” Jacob nodded.
“Hold it! Rewind.” Joe was beginning to relax until Vincent began staring at him again. “How do you
have a son that we don’t know about?”
Catherine gave a short sigh, looked around the room, shook her head and relented to the inevitable.
“Well,” she glanced at Vincent and Jacob, “You’ve seen them now. You may as well know.” She pulled
Jacob tight, kissed his head and then released him. “Anna, would you sit with your brother, please? Make
sure he’s okay.”
“I’m fine, mother.” Jacob insisted, his eyes still red and puffy.
“I know, babe, but I want you to stay in here with Anna alright?” He nodded, and Catherine wiped his
tear stains away with her thumbs. “You two,” she focused on Joe and Jenny, “out in the livingroom. I’ll be
out in a minute.” The two friends were still in their spots, staring at Jacob and Anna. “Now.” Catherine
encouraged and Joe inched his way along the wall, following a reluctant Jenny out. Catherine climbed to
her feet and turned to Vincent. “How much should I tell them?”
“As much as you feel they can handle.” His eyes instantly switched to a softer, loving expression. “I
don’t trust Joe. But that’s just my opinion.”
“Uncle Joe wouldn’t have hurt anyone, dad.” Anna assured. “He’ll understand.”
“I believe in the good in him, Anna, but his demonstration begs to differ. Jenny, on the other hand
seems quite trustworthy.”
Catherine nodded, staring at the door. “She always has been. I’ve thought of telling her. Even before
the twins, I thought of telling her.”
“Let me talk to him.” Anna volunteered. “I know Uncle Joe can handle it. You just gotta break it to him
gently.” She nodded, all-knowing.
“It’s already been broken to him, sweetheart.” Catherine was still staring out the door. “And none too
“Then go ahead, Catherine.” Vincent allowed. “Just tell them. They’ve been loyal friends for years. We
both owe them the truth.” Catherine looked at Vincent and gave him a weak smile. “Do you want to stay
here, or go with me?”
“Catherine,” he stared down at her with adoration shining from him, “I think you’ve faced enough
Catherine smiled and stretched to kiss him lightly on his lips. She took his hand, a deep breath, and
began to lead the way.
“I want to come too!” Anna jumped up.
“No, little one,” Vincent stopped her, “you stay here and take care of your brother. We’ll let you know
when you can come out. Stay here.” He turned back and encouraged Catherine forward again.
Joe and Jenny were arguing as Vincent and Catherine came down the hall. They could hear nothing
intelligible, only harsh whispers. Catherine hesitated for a moment, but Vincent leaned forward and
whispered that ‘everything will be alright’. Catherine took a deep breath and stepped into the livingroom.
“Cathy!” Jenny rushed forward. “I’m so sorry! I had no idea! If I had known...” Her voice trailed off as
Vincent emerged behind Catherine. Though not afraid of him, she was somewhat intimidated and
backed away as they came closer.
“I know you would have.” Catherine nodded, deciding to ignore her friend’s reaction. “But, let’s get
something straight.” Her focus was directed at Joe who was guarding himself with the couch. “You will
never, ever just invade my apartment like that ever again! Do you understand?” Jenny nodded vigorously,
determined to be forgiven. But Joe only stared warily at Vincent. “Do you understand me?” Catherine
spoke slowly and forcefully. Joe nodded once, complying in his own stubborn manner. “Good. In that
case, we can sit and discuss this like normal people.”
Joe gave an unsuccessfully stifled ironic laugh. “There’s nothing normal about any of this, Cathy.”
“Well,” Vincent ventured forward to Catherine’s side, “there a good place to start”
“No, you don’t have a right to talk.” Joe suddenly spoke up, his finger pointed at Vincent, his anger
seeming to overpower any fear or intimidation. “You shouldn’t even be here. Where the hell have you
been for the last seven years? I just can’t figure you out. Apart from your... appearance, which I haven’t
even begun to try to explain to myself yet; I just can’t understand you. And believe me, I may not have
known you, but I have spent the last seven years trying to get inside your head.” Joe was pacing now,
and, for him, there was no one else but he and Vincent. “How could you leave them? Just throw them out
in the cold like that?”
“Joe.” Catherine protested, but Vincent held out his hand to stop her.
“I have tried to make up for everything that you’ve done to Cathy and Annie. The years of hurt that have
eaten away at both of them. You are all that Annie has ever wanted in her life. And God knows I tried to fill
that void. I thought I’d done it too, until you show up out of nowhere. All of a sudden you want to play the
“You won’t hurt them again, Vincent. I’ll make sure of that! You have no claim to either of them and I will
not see them taken away from me.” He was done, but he looked volatile, like he may start again any
“Joe,” Catherine stepped forward, but Vincent touched her arm and continued in her place.
“You’re a good man, Joe Maxwell. You love Catherine and Anna. I can see that. I deeply appreciate all
that you have done for them. And please don’t believe that I feel anything less. You’re right, I hurt them
beyond words, and I will always regret that. But I will also be spending the rest of my life trying to make it
up to them. You’ve been a great friend to Catherine when she needed one most. You’ve cared for Anna
when I wasn’t there. For that, I’m entirely in your debt.
“I understand that you both feel like you’re losing Anna, but, believe me, I don’t want that to happen any
more than you do. You two came first. You’ve watched her grow from infancy. You’ve helped shape such
a beautiful and intelligent child. She is as much yours as she is mine. I don’t want Catherine to lose your
friendship, and I don’t want Anna to lose your influence. You’ve given them things that I would never be
“Anna loves you, Joe. She loves your talks and games you invent together. She told me about walks in
the park and watching you working at the District Attorney’s office. Those are things only you can give
her. I can never replace that, nor would I want to.”
There was a silence. Catherine raised her eyes to Vincent and was smiling at him in pure adoration.
Joe was breathing deeply and he swallowed hard, as if digesting Vincent’s words. Jenny was staring at
Vincent, near tears and smiling at him.
“Well, that was just beautiful.” Jenny wiped her eyes and then fell into the couch. “I am just dying to
know how you two met. Joe,” she grabbed the sleeve of his jacket and tugged, “do me a favor and let it
go. Anna’s still here, and I have a feeling Vincent will be around for a long time. You may as well get used
Joe continued to survey Vincent, head to toe, sizing him up. He was trying to reject the confidence that
Vincent’s speech had instilled in him, but he was fighting a losing battle.
“Joe,” Catherine spoke softly, reassuring, “it’s not all as bad as you think. Sit down. Let me tell you
what happened.” She smiled as he slowly sank into the couch next to Jenny.
“Uncle Joe?” A little voice called from the hall.
The adults turned to find Anna, with Jacob close behind her. “Anna! Jacob! What did we tell you?”
“I feel a lot better.” Jacob insisted, running at his parents, and stopping so close he has to lean back
to look up at them.
“Uncle Joe,” Anna walked over and sat next to him, “I’m sorry I’ve been kind of ignoring you. I just... I
finally had him here and I wanted to spend time with him too. I didn’t know how long it would last.”
“Well, Anna,” Vincent spoke up, “we’re going to fix that. We are going to come up with some kind of
schedule. You can’t ignore them. They’re very important.”
“I know.” She nodded and wrapped her arms around Joe’s neck. “Forgive me?”
Despite himself, Joe chuckled at her. “Annie, I’m wrapped around your little finger. You know that.”
“Good!” Anna bounced. “Mom, how about you and daddy tell the whole story and we’ll have ice-cream
cake and then Jacob and I will really have our birthday with everybody.”
“Alright.” Catherine let Vincent cut and pass out the cake. She sat in the chair at the head of the
livingroom and pulled Jacob onto her lap. “How are you feeling, sweetheart?”
“I’m fine.” Jacob smiled back at her. “I’ve never been caught before.” He told her as if it meant nothing.
“And let’s just hope you don’t ever again.” Catherine smiled and kissed his cheek.
“Wow, Cath,” Jenny admired mother and son, “he really does look like you. I want to hear all the
“Alright,” Catherine smiled comfortably with no doubt in her mind as to what she was about to tell, “is
everyone sitting comfortably? Okay then...
“Once upon a time, in the city of New York...”
Two Years Later
“Jamie said I might find you here.” Catherine announced her presence with thorough amusement.
Vincent spun, causing the water he was engulfed in to form a vortex. He found Catherine perched
atop a boulder, watching him with a grin. For a moment he panicked; how had he not sensed her
approach? He must have been so absorbed in the water, he hadn’t even acknowledged the sense.
“Catherine.” He gasped slightly.
She giggled softly, seeing, sensing his nervousness and embarrassment. She hunched over her jean
shorts and wrapped her arms around her tank-top and white cotton over-shirt. “It’s so hot Above... I
thought the children would be down here too.”
“Many haven’t noticed the heat wave.” He explained, still uncomfortable, but now because of her lack
“So you thought you’d beat the rush?” She asked playfully.
“No... no.” His heartbeat had slowed to normal and his mind sank into that comforting cocoon of her
mere presence. He swam up close to the rock the she was observing from. “The water... it’s soothing. It
helps me think.”
She was immediately concerned and came down off her perch to kneel on the sand next to him.
“Have you been troubled lately?”
He starred into her eyes and nearly drowned in them. They were so beautiful and caring. He could
loose himself in their depths without even a second thought. “No,” he whispered, still entranced, “I simply
needed to think.” She smiled, and he melted. His heart was claimed by that smile. His whole life would
forever be for the sole reason of seeing that smile. “Come,” he invited before he could realize what he
was doing, “join me.”
“I don’t know about that.” She looked at him skeptically, giggling. “You know where that got us last
“Mom! Father!” Jacob called from the ledge above the water. “Watch me jump!”
“Yes.” Vincent mumbled ironically to Catherine. “They make it impossible to forget.”
“Mom, Dad, are you watching?” Anna called, coming up behind her brother.
“Jacob!” Catherine called up to her son. “Sweetheart, be careful, the water’s kind of shallow.”
“It’s okay, mom.” Anna reassured. “We do this all the time.”
“Why do you keep saying ‘we’?” Jacob turned to his sister, thoroughly annoyed. “You never actually do
any of the exciting things I like to do.”
“Well... no.” She looked away bashfully. “But,” she smiled back at him. “I’m always right here next to
you whenever you do it.” She shrugged. “That should count for something.”
“It does.” He smiled and nodded. And with that, he spun around and dived face forward into the water.
He bobbed back up, quick as a cork, and wiped his eyes clear to see where he jumped from. “Come on,
Anna! You’re turn!”
Anna took a short deep breath and carefully set her toes on the edge. Her stomach turned and she
took a step back. “No, I don’t think I can do it.” She shook her head vigorously.
“Anna,” Vincent called to her, “you can do it. I’ll catch you.”
Anna crept forward again, her toes barely off the edge. She looked down to find her father right
underneath her, waiting, arms outstretched. She hesitated and then slowly backed away. “No, it’s okay. I
think I’ll just climb down.”
Jacob shook his head, and gave up on his sister, expecting her to back down. Instead he
concentrated on Catherine. “Come on, mom! The water feels great!”
“No, honey, I’m okay right here.” She assured him.
“Are you sure?” Vincent swam up to the edge and lifted himself slightly to be almost nose-to-nose with
her. “It’s awfully hot out there.” He whispered, a suggestion in his eyes and voice.
“It’s a little crowded in there for my taste.” She teased and kissed his nose. “I’m sure.”
A huge splash occurred out of nowhere, and everyone turned to Jacob when he began squirming and
fighting something under the water. “Anna! Cut it out!” She emerged to the surface laughing and Jacob
splashed her, just as she had cleared her eyes.
“Hey!” Anna protested, and immediately spun around to find Catherine. “Mom,” she whined, “that
“And your grabbing his feet underwater wasn’t warranted.” Catherine regulated. “That’s enough now.
Stop your arguing.” Catherine pulled back to climb to her feet, but Vincent caught her arm.
“Wait.” He stared into her eyes in deep concern. “Are you feeling alright?”
“I’m fine, Vincent.” She insisted, but came closer, complying with his directions.
“You feel a little warm.” He drifted his hand across her forehead and down her neck.
“Vincent, it’s a thousand degrees Above, of course I’m...” Catherine tried to jerk away, but it was too
late. Vincent had grabbed her shoulders and pulled her into the water. She fell face first and came up
gasping for air. She wiped her face as the twins’ laughter filled the cavern. Breathing hard, she glared at
Vincent, who shrugged casually. Slowly a seductive smile grew on her lips and she swam close to him
and looped her arms around his neck. “That was pretty clever.” She granted him.
He dipped his face close to hers, letting his breath drift across her face. “I thought so.”
“Mm-hm.” She nodded and drew him close to initiate a kiss. But just before he reached her, she slid
her hands into his hair and pushed his face under the water. She let him go quickly and, as he came up
sputtering and spitting, she casually back-stroked away from him. “But I’m pretty clever too.” She finished
Vincent wiped his face and shook his hair away from his eyes. As soon as he found Catherine he
dived for her, laughing and splashing her as much as he could.
“Mommy, daddy, that’s enough! Stop your arguing!” Anna yelled to them.
A lone, quiet figure stood at the entrance of the cavern, watching with pride. He jumped when a hand
touched his shoulder and a voice called to him.
“Joe, my boy!” Father greeted Joe Maxwell, putting a paternal arm around him. “What can I do for
Joe looked into the cavern and found the spectacle at which Father had been watching. With a forced
smile and an accepting nod, Joe took a deep breath and turned to Father once again. “I was hoping to
talk to you about that incident the other day.”
“Joe, I have told you time and time again; we are not giving firearms to the sentries.” Father led Joe
away from the cavern.
Away from the sounds of water splashing and the distant laughter of a new family.