Waiting

       And so Catherine coped for the following months. Olivia became her only close friend Below. It was a
difficult friendship, with the rest of the community shunning Catherine, it stood to reason they would
bestow the same courtesies on Olivia. Kanin fought with his wife for hours until they finally came to the
conclusion that he couldn’t stop Olivia from visiting Catherine, but he put his foot down when it came to
their son.
       
       The whole situation was like something out of The Scarlet Letter. The children were not allowed to go
near Catherine, much less speak to her; as if they would catch some rare disease from her. And the
adults all found reasons to condemn and avoid her. Father and Mary had no choice but to tend to her, but
Father hardly spoke during the examinations. Mary had claimed that she had no opinion on the matter
either way, but she had softened to Catherine when it became clear that the baby was far from ordinary.
Many of the dwellers saw Catherine’s actions as a betrayal to them and especially to Vincent. Mouse was
the worst. That happy-go-lucky face that Catherine had become accustomed to greeting her, was now
harsh and fierce. Lena spoke to Catherine only once in her entire stay. She had pulled little Catherine
away from the elder and whispered harshly, “You had Vincent. You had everything. You threw it away when
others could have had a chance!”
       
       Catherine couldn’t blame them. She agreed with everything they whispered and rumored about her. If
it were her choice, she wouldn’t even be around herself. Everything built; one after the other until she
spiraled into another depression. This one of a deadlier kind; self-loathing.
       
       Months progressed and the child within Catherine grew, but the child’s father was no where to be
found. Strange sightings were reported to Father as Vincent, like a ghost, seemed to appear and
disappear from the tunnel community. He always seemed to have just labored heavily whenever a dweller
would see his form disappear behind the stone walls. One of the children had been so excited to see ‘the
ghost of Vincent’ that he had forgotten the rules and ran straight to Catherine, filling her in on the newest
sighting as if he’d experienced something straight out of one of Father’s Halloween stories.
       
       “He was all wet!” The little boy gushed. “And I just stood there. I couldn’t move. He walked by,
stopped, and then looked at me! He nodded his head, like this,” the boy demonstrated the acknowledging
bow awarded him. “And then he just kept walking!”
       
       Catherine had sat forward, thoroughly captivated by the story, and hoping beyond hope that it would
end with her beloved walking into the chamber. “And? Did you go after him?”
       
       And then, as if her words had actually been reminding him of the new unwritten rule, the boy backed
away from Catherine with wide eyes. She had tried to call him back, but the child ran off in fear of
punishment.
       
       The emotional toll that the lack of interaction had taken on her was nothing compared to the physical
toll that the baby was causing. She was so large that by the end of her fifth month she could hardly leave
her bed. The ‘aches’ that Olivia had assured her were perfectly normal, had progressed to shooting pains
continually down her spine. Eventually she was forced to consent to Mary and Olivia helping her walk to
the lavatory, the kitchen, or wherever she was absolutely required to be. Finally, by the beginning of her
seventh month, Father was forced to sedate her whenever the pain was too unbearable and she was
begging him to make it stop.



       “How much longer?” Olivia charged into Father’s study, taking no consideration of the meeting in
progress. “How much longer, Father?”
       
       “Livy,” Kanin stood to try to contain the fire that was visibly crackling in his wife’s eyes.
       
       “How long?” She had pushed past her husband and was now leaning down to be face-to-face with
Father. “She’s been in excruciating pain for four days straight! This isn’t normal, Father! You have to do
something!”
       
       Calmly and rationally, Father (with a raise of his hand) put the meeting on hold and answered the
frantic woman. “What do you propose I do, dear?”
       
       “Something! Anything! Just make the pain stop! She can’t stand it anymore!”
       
       “I can do nothing more than sedate her, Olivia. Any medication to reduce the pain would hardly have
an affect on her. And anything stronger could injure the child.”
               
       “Then send her to Peter! This isn’t normal, Father!” She readily argued.
       
       “She won’t go Above. Don’t you think I’ve tried?” He answered with a little more malice than he had
wanted to slip out.
       
       “Oh, I’m sure you have.” She added smartly.
       
       “Olivia!” A scold from her husband.
       
       She breathed to collect her thoughts. “Father, please. I am begging you, for her sake, you have to do
something.”
       
       “Olivia, dear, we’ve been going around in this circle for weeks now.” Father sighed and began again
for the hundredth time. “There is nothing-“
       
       ”Father!” Kipper skid into the chamber and panted out his message. “Mary says to come quickly!
There’s something wrong with Catherine!”




The Dragon Princess

       Vincent watched, transfixed as Catherine climbed out onto the fire escape. She was just the way he
had seen her last; dark, silky honey colored hair, porcelain face, and eyes that (like their color) were
deeper than the ocean itself. He had always loved her, just this way. Those nights that he would land on
her balcony and find her absorbed in the work she was doing, were always the times that he found himself
loving her even more than the last time he had seen her. She was always so driven, intent on fixing any
and all problems. Their passions were so alike, it was no wonder they had fallen in love so quickly. Now,
after watching her with Jacob, and feeling her so near to him, he wondered how and why they had spent
eight years apart.
       
       She came through the window easily and shot him a disgusted look as she made one fluid motion to
the opposite side of the landing. She had stabbed him with that look. In it he saw everything; how the
years had aged her, her anger of their necessary closeness, and even worse... exactly how and why they
had spent eight years apart. Facing away from him, her arms folded and the wind sweeping her hair
slightly, she looked as though she was physically holding in the desire to lash out at him.
       
       “So...” she began in a fairly calm voice that almost sounded disinterested, “did you know about all
this?”
       
       Vincent had to restrain a smile at the sound of her voice. It wasn’t completely the way that he
remembered it, but it was close enough. “Jacob brought Anna down with him a month ago.” He began
slowly. “I found them. Since then I’ve been bringing him up to visit two nights per week.” In an attempt to
redeem himself he quickly spit out the rest. “I had no idea that she was yours, Catherine, honestly. I’m so
sorry.”
       
       She held her hand up to stop him, and wrapped it back around herself again quickly. “How about...
how they met. Any ideas about that?”
       
       “Well, no. The children themselves seem to have forgotten that detail.” Vincent kept his eyes on her.
There was too much of a risk of this dream ending.
      
        “Oh, how convenient.” Her voice pitched with a grimace.
       
       The thick, heavy silence fell. The tension seemed to radiate off of both of them, clashing between
them like opposing swords. He wanted to reach out to her, to maybe even touch her. But she was stiff,
unrelenting, angry. An invisible bubble covered her so it seemed that anything within a two foot radius
would simply bounce off. Perhaps everything was happening too quickly for her. He was overjoyed to see
her, although she was everything but. He wanted to bridge that gap that eight years had left. Whatever had
happened in the past, it was the past. Here they were, the children asleep inside. He wanted his life to fall
back into her comforting arms and he never wanted to leave them again.
       
       In an effort to attempt this, Vincent spoke tentatively. “Catherine, I want to...”
       
       “I don’t really care what you want, Vincent. You won’t take her from me.” She had finally spun around
to face him. It was the first time she had spoken his name since she saw him, and something suddenly
ignited in both of them.
       
       Vincent actually took a step toward her, not in anger, only concern. “I honestly don’t know what you’re
talking about.”
       
       She squirmed a bit at the mere inches closer he was, but it was her only sign of weakness. “Don’t try
to pretend with me, Vincent. We both know what happened, and I will tell you this right now... you may have
gotten Jacob, but you will never get Anna. She’s not yours, she never will be. She’s mine!”
       
       “What are you saying? I’m not going to take Anna away from you. Why would I do that? That’s
ridiculous. She’s your daughter.” He watched her closely, lost on this accusation that had begun the
moment Catherine had seen him.
       
       “Well, I suppose that’s why you allowed she and Jacob to keep visiting each other. Did you think of
the consequences? Did you think of what this might do to her? Or maybe you thought that you could just
waltz into her life as if nothing happened?” Her eyes were fire, and if they could turn red to match her face,
they would have.
       
       “Once again,” he began calmly, “I say that I am very sorry. I didn’t know that she was your daughter.”
       
       “Oh, save it!” She turned away from him. “You know,” she changed her mind, turning back around, her
voice a hoarse whisper, “you are the only thing that little girl in there has ever wanted in her whole life. Do
you have any idea what it’s been like trying to keep her from finding out about you? I knew that the
moment she did she would run straight to you. And I knew that she’d be alright for a while, and then
eventually everything would come crashing down around her. Because I know what happens to people like
Anna and I down there. You have no idea what it was like for me after you left. You have no idea what it’s
like to have the only family you know hate you.” She had begun to cry again, despite her efforts to control
it. “Don’t try to pretend that you care about her. She may not accept it now, but you relinquished all rights
to be her father when you walked out on me.” She was facing away from him again, gulping breath to fight
her tears.
       
       The wheels in Vincent’s head were turning... he was finally understanding. But the more he explained
this to himself, the less he believed it. He could feel that horrible pit of truth in his gut and the ache of his
heart as everything clicked into place. But still, he was in denial. “Catherine,” he began, a choke in his
voice now, “who is Anna’s father?”
       
       For such a slow and sincere question, the response was fast and sharp, painful even. Very painful.
She had smacked him across the face so quickly, that he hadn’t seen it coming. His hot cheek stung, and
that demon within him threatened to come to the surface, but Vincent forced him back down. His eyes
came up slowly to meet hers. He could see the fire in them, and he was suddenly shocked with the
emotion that flooded in from her. She wanted to scream, yell, and hit him a few more times if possible, but
her tense body was holding it all in somehow. Her blood was boiling and it was as if the only thing that
kept her from literally exploding was her delicate skin.
       
       “You bastard!” She whispered emphatically instead of screaming it. And suddenly she had ducked
out of his shocked view.
       
       Vincent caught her elbow before she could get the window too far open. Both of them froze. His grip
restrained her, but it was not tight. Catherine swept her eyes up slowly, first focusing on his hand, then up
to his face. Vincent expected her to demand that he let her go, but once again she had reacted
unexpectedly. Her expression was as strong as it had been, but there was a strange wanting in her eyes.
It was as if Vincent could gaze into them and find a battle being waged between the want and denial
within her.
       
       “Catherine,” he found his voice, “am I her father?” His eyes locked on hers, conveying his sincerity.
       
       Even if she’d wanted to, he wouldn’t have let her pull away from his gaze. Simply and quietly she
spoke, “You really don’t know do you?” He didn’t respond, he didn’t need to. She watched him for a
moment and her expression changed slightly. Now she was confused. “Why would you think that she wasn’
t? Who did you think...?”
       
       “I thought...” he stopped, not quite able or wanting to say it, “maybe that... that other man.” He was
barely audible, and he bowed his head away from her.
       
       “What?” Now she was truly not comprehending him. “No. No,” she went just as quiet as Vincent, “I
never saw him again. He moved away a few weeks later.”
       
       Vincent brought his head up to meet her eyes again. “Then how...?”
       
       Catherine looked as though she was going to make an attempt to step away, but she stood her
ground. Whether she was trying to show him how strong she was (which was not necessary), or she was
fighting to stay because she wanted to be near him, Vincent couldn’t tell. He hoped it was the latter, but
she suddenly seemed angry again. “What do you mean, ‘how’? Anna is your daughter. She was born
three minutes before Jacob with your face, my eyes, and some stranger’s unrelenting sense of reality. I
have no idea where she got that one from.”
       
       “I don’t understand.” He cut her off slightly. “Are you saying that Anna is Jacob’s twin?” His blue eyes
bore in on hers as if they could suck any and all information out of her.
       
       Catherine stared back at him with a wild and confused face. “Yes, of course. What else?”
       
       Vincent broke away from her, releasing her arm which actually proved to be a bit emotionally painful
for both. But this was beyond his petty physical wants. He braced himself on the fire escape rail, keeping
his back to Catherine, who he could hear returning to her corner as well. He had a daughter. He had a little
girl. He was a father... again. Jacob had a twin sister. His daughter, Anna. Anna. Catherine had named
her Anna. She was perfect, beautiful. He turned slightly and peeked into the window. The twins, lying there
asleep together, were the picture of perfection. ‘Born with your face’, Catherine said. But no, she looked
so like Catherine accept for her darker skin... her father’s skin. His daughter, Anna.
       
       He pushed the window back down and set his hand against the glass, watching the children. He
could feel Catherine’s stare behind him, but he wouldn’t be bothered. He was lost in his own world... with a
daughter.
       
       Finally, he couldn’t ignore her any longer. She had crept up next to him and was also now gazing in at
their twins. He gave a heavy, complicated, but almost content sigh.
       
       “I had no idea. I never knew. Why didn’t you tell me?” He asked quietly, and immediately regretted it.
       
       Catherine’s eyes grew to the size of half dollars. She pulled his hand off the glass, spinning him to
face her fury. “You were gone!” She never yelled, so as not to wake the children, but her whispers were
harsh enough. “And after what you put me through, I was not about to come crawling back to you! I asked
for my forgiveness! For two years I asked for forgiveness and when it was never granted, I stopped trying
and decided that it was your turn! I did my pennants; I look at her every day, and every day she reminds
me of everything I have gone through in the last eight years! Here’s the real question... why didn’t you
come to me?”
       
       Finally, the argument had taken a turn in his favor. It was his turn. It was his child now. “Where were
you, Catherine? I was taking care of our son! Do you remember him? I’m not sure how you could... you
haven’t seen him in seven years!”
       
       She went quiet this time, and took a step away. “Don’t start on that. I’ll bury you.”
       
       “What was the matter, Catherine? Was he just too much to handle? Was the week that he cried too
much on you? Maybe you were just ashamed of him! Maybe you didn’t want to look at him anymore
because... he was just like me!”
       
       Catherine stared at him, looking like she may hit him again, but she didn’t. She just looked at him,
confused and shaking her head. “Who are you? What have you turned into? You don’t even accept that I
was the only one who didn’t care what...” she was obviously going to say something else, “Jacob looked
like. The only one who loved him because of it!”
       
       “You left him Below!” Vincent burst out. The only thing he had ever been angry at her for was finally out
in the open.
       
       “I had no choice.” She almost sounded as though she was whimpering.
       
       “You had no choice?” He repeated bitterly. “You had a choice, Catherine. You chose to leave Jacob
with Father and run back up here where you didn’t have to face us anymore. Or at least you thought you
didn’t.”
       
       Both were silent for a moment, taking each other in. Vincent was angry, which was rare and
Catherine was a little taken aback by it. But she was completely confused and hurt by his accusations.
“Vincent,” she began, “what has Father been telling you?”
       
       There was quiet still. He had pretty much just explained the sum of what Father had told him.
Catherine continued. “I never wanted to leave Jacob there. I wanted to stay with him. I did. But your Father
took him out of my arms and forced me to leave. He was going to take Anna too, but since she could live
Above, he let me keep her. But he banished me from the tunnels. I never left willingly.”
       
       Vincent let her story sink in. He wanted to believe her, but it was horrible what she was accusing
Father of. Not to mention; the exact opposite of what he had been told and believed for years. He turned
away, and gave her the easiest answer. “That’s not true.”
       
       “Believe what you will.” She told him coldly. “I was there. I know how it feels to have your beliefs, your
friends, and your child taken away from you in one moment. I don’t care if you don’t believe me. You’re not
part of my life anymore. You’ve been long since gone. I’ve accepted that.”
       
       “I don’t know what to believe anymore.” He added quietly.
       
       “I’m sorry that you’ve apparently been lied to. But that’s your own demons.” She leaned against the
window frame and gazed in at the children.
       
       “I have to go.” He said more to himself than her.
       
       “I know.” She answered quietly, almost bitter, as if she expected it.
       
       “Jacob...” Vincent turned and mirrored her position, but never crossing the invisible wall between
them.
       
       “Let him sleep.” She quickly pleaded, never actually looking at him. “Please?”
       
       It wasn’t as much a plea for Jacob as it was for herself, and Vincent sensed it clearly. He hesitated.
“You must have things to do tomorrow.”
       
       “I’ll cancel.” She answered immediately. “Please.”
       
       He was still hesitant. She had begged him not to take Anna away and she seemed to be asking the
same for his son. But the years of listening to Jacob wishing for her, and he himself hoping that one day
Jacob would know his mother, played against his negativity. “I’ll be back tomorrow night.” He told her
quietly.
       
       She nodded, her forehead against the glass. She looked as though she had regained some
confidence when she turned around. “Vincent...”
       
       But he had taken a hold of the roof and pulled himself up and onto the open garden above her
apartment. He would climb across the roofs until he came to the home or shop of some Helper.
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