Letters from the Grave
Six months expired in the wake of Catherine’s passing and there was no relief in sight for Vincent. The nightmares, dreams and longing would not subside and in fact only worsened with her absence. He was hurting, vacillating between anger and sorrow and there were so many reminders that he almost needed the pain to continue. Vincent was convinced that if he wallowed in his prolonged suffering, he would come out of the darkness unscathed. He was martyring himself and he didn’t even know it.
Almost immediately after Catherine’s death, Vincent knelt nightly at her yet unmarked grave sobbing uncontrollably at the loss of his soul mate. He desperately clawed at the mounded soil hoping to release her from eternal sleep, but alas, it was not to be and he mourned ever more violently.
With the passing weeks and months, those who knew and loved Catherine also paid their respects in the light of day and laid flowers at her headstone. Catherine would have beseeched them not to grieve, yet she would have encouraged anyone to carry her light into the realm of the living. She would not have tolerated their guilt at their not being able to save her from her captors. It was done and over with and she would have wanted her family and friends and especially Vincent to move on with their lives.
Vincent’s strength was paramount and carrying Catherine’s light was just beginning to make sense to him. He had her child; a son called Jacob Vincent. Jacob was a tribute to the pure light Catherine brought to the tunnels every time she visited, and when she was above in her world, her light danced through Vincent’s chamber bringing him peace and joy he had never known.
The memories of the lovemaking which resulted in Catherine’s pregnancy was a bittersweet reminder of how precious and fragile their union was. Although their strength together as a couple was undeniable to the tunnel community, while apart, there was a dread of disaster looming heavily and Vincent always this knew to be true. Catherine would not allow the fear to seep into her consciousness knowing that Vincent’s connection to her could easily be disrupted causing him extreme anxiety. Their unwavering devotion was not to be reckoned with however, and anyone who tried would be crushed in its wake.
Now with the light of dawn threatening to reveal his presence, Vincent reluctantly turned and stole away into shrubbery shrouding a nearby entrance. He returned to his chamber; to his grief and solitude.
Vincent didn’t remember falling asleep, but when he woke, he found himself in his ornate chair still in his cloak, journal splayed open on his lap and pen dangling from his poised fingers, his face stiff from dried tears. He knew that if he kept this up, he would surely die from heartbreak and that would be of no benefit to his son who he could hear wailing from outside his chamber door.
“Ah Vincent, back from your nightly sojourn I see,” observed Father as he entered the chamber followed by Mary who carried Jacob.
“Vincent, Jacob is freshly changed and from his outcry, I suspect he may still be hungry for more of William’s porridge.” In Mary’s hand she held a small crock containing a creamy treat only babies could consider palatable.
“Vincent, from your appearance I suspect you’ve been to Catherine’s grave again this night?”
“Yes, Father,” Vincent replied slowly.
Father settled on the bed across from Vincent’s chair and took his son’s hand. His heart ached for his son, and no words seemed to bring solace, but Vincent welcomed the comfort as it DID make a difference toward his healing.
“Mary, Father would you mind – I need to change out of these clothes and freshen up and I’ll join you in Father’s chamber. Let me just express my appreciation for all that you’ve done for Jacob and me. I don’t know how I could have survived this without both of you.”
With babe in her arms, Mary leaned to kiss his cheek. “Just know that we love you and will always be here for you.”
Vincent softly brushed a curl from Jacob’s forehead and saw Catherine’s eyes fluttering up at him. This time there was no pain in that sight, but love and hope. Especially hope.
Catherine’s captors were now reigning in hell and the worst was past. Catherine’s light offered optimism for their child. Jacob would grow to remember his mother as a woman of deep conviction and commitment.
There would be a tale to tell, just as there was each year at Christmas when Father brought the children of the tunnels together to intently hang on his every word while he retold the story of how Vincent was found as an infant on the steps of St. Vincent’s Hospital. Catherine’s story would be magical and the tragedy of her passing would soften in time and become one filled with hopeful measure for all to consider.
Once Paracelsus was destroyed and his evil plan to become Father’s imposter failed, Vincent melted into despair. His anguish was exacerbated by his desire to consummate his and Catherine’s relationship, yet he was reluctant to impose himself upon her. His need great, he reviled himself for he thought himself undeserving. Yes, he was back at that place in his head. Catherine tried time and again to convince him that his self loathing was destructive to their connection, putting their bond in jeopardy.
During one fraught night, Vincent, delirious with fever, crashed down Catherine’s balcony doors. Fading in and out of consciousness, he found himself blurrily peering up into Catherine’s sweet face, hearing her calling him back to reality. With Peter’s help over the next three days she nursed him back to a sense of comfort. It was during this turmoil that Catherine conceived their son Jacob.
Their lovemaking, tentative and innocent as it began, became passionate and tender; mingled with the scent of their unique aromas. Vincent restrained his lust lest he lose his sensibility, but Catherine’s gentle pace and welcoming desire allowed him to forgo his control and he engulfed her ardently. Their union was blissful comedy with erotic drama played out hour after hour until both of them were spent with satisfied fatigue.
Now, holding his son in his arms spooning porridge past his tiny heart shaped lips Vincent was enthralled and perplexed at how his union with Catherine could produce such a beautiful son. He constantly recalled with forced detail how it was with her during his recovery after his breakdown. She seemed at peace and now he knew why – it was because she was with child and although she never revealed her secret, he must have always known even though their bond was impaired during her imprisonment by the evil that held her captive for so many months.
His heart leapt watching Jacob, now with a full stomach, cooing and gurgling with satisfaction. Sadness threatened with the wish that Catherine could be here now, observing all of this – holding his son in his arms, this miracle of their love.
Suddenly Jamie and Samantha came bounding into the chamber excitedly.
“Oh Vincent, do you mind if we take little Jacob for a while – Samantha has offered to sketch us at the mirror pool. We promise we’ll be careful. We’ll take extra diapers and I’ll get a bottle from William just in case he gets hungry before his next meal.”
Vincent watchfully handed over his son to Jamie and was well assured that she would guard him like a hawk over its prey. He rarely concerned himself with Jacob’s safety these days as the community was well aware of how precious and what a gift this child was. In a blink Jamie, Samantha and Jacob exited the chamber and called back their thanks to Vincent, waving as they went.
After the lengthy investigation into Catherine’s disappearance, Diana and Vincent kept in contact despite Diana’s recent marriage and move to Philadelphia where she took a job as Chief of Detectives. Vincent was relieved at her departure as he felt that he could never reciprocate her affection for him. She was a reminder of all the sorrow and anger he could not repress and seeing her on any regular basis would have been detrimental to Catherine’s memory. He explained his position to her one evening after a chamber concert and the look of disappointment on her face made him feel as if he had led her on. After all she had done for Catherine and him, he didn’t want to seem ungrateful he made it clear he could never love her as he did Catherine and it wouldn’t have been fair to not give her his all.
If Catherine could communicate from the heavens, she probably would have approved of Diana, but his commitment to her memory would not waver and therefore his destiny was to live with her in his head and heart forever.
Diana and Vincent parted friends and promised one another that nothing would diminish their bond which developed after the tragedy of Catherine’s passing. Vincent was grateful that Diana accepted him in her life and although it broke her heart to say goodbye, she went with the knowledge that she was always welcome back in the tunnels.
Catherine’s kidnapping and the subsequent birth of Jacob left Vincent feeling as if he had failed her. If she had told him from the start that she had conceived, perhaps he could have prevented her ultimate demise. Some say guilt is not a feeling, but for Vincent it was as pervasive as death itself. There is no joy in death and he could not imagine anything beyond it. His faith had stumbled in light of all the tragedy and he wondered if he could ever get it back. God’s love had become abstract and unattainable and each night he laid his head on the pillow, his tears mingled with his anger and sorrow beseeching the Lord’s guidance.
What would Catherine ask him to do right now; this very minute? Was she looking down on him from the heavens as he wanted to believe and have Jacob believe one day as well? It was overwhelming, this loss and emptiness. His grip on the present was disturbed as Father spoke softly. He hadn’t even realized he’d returned.
“Vincent, will you be visiting Catherine’s grave every night? How can doing so benefit you in any way other than bringing your sadness to the surface?”
“Father,” Vincent replied, “I only ask that you be patient with me – this is something I need to do until I need it no longer. Do you understand?” Irritation was evident in his voice and Father chose not to push any further as he didn’t want to alienate his son. A simple nod was offered and Father departed Vincent’s chamber.
Vincent felt the need to move and Kanin and Devin greeted him as he made his way to the lower chambers to assist in finishing a project begun weeks prior to Catherine’s death and suspended while the entire community searched for her. Work was what he needed to distract right now and his two closest friends were there to support him in any way they could. They toiled into the night and wee hours of the morning. Before dawn, Vincent excused himself, gathered up his cloak from his chamber and stealthily arrived at Catherine’s grave.
He knelt on the cool grass and ran his work-roughened hands on the smooth headstone which Kanin had personally carved. As his hand reached the small ledge at the base of the stone, he saw something white. It suddenly ruffled in the breeze and he realized it was a piece of paper. No, not paper, but a sealed envelope. He turned it over and saw only “V” written on the front of it. He held it up in the moonlight and studied the handwriting of this single letter on paper. His heart stopped and his stomach burned with anticipation and hope – was this Catherine’s handwriting? he wondered. There was a familiarity with the script. With a leap Vincent turned where he stood. His keen eyes searched the corners of the cemetery. He suspected that someone concealed by the darkness was playing a joke. The moon reflected light off the headstones and shadows cast by each were evident. No one lurked and he could not sense a presence. Placing the envelope in his vest pocket, he furtively stepped back into the shadows retreating to his safety below.
Upon Vincent’s return to his chamber, he fumbled, removing his cloak letting it fall to the floor. He pulled the envelope from his pocket and held it up to the candlelight. He wanted to rip it open with his canines, yet he held it anxiously in his trembling hand. His heart pounding, he slowly began to tear from one corner to the next with a claw. Still he could not bring himself to look inside.
“How could this be?” he wondered. “Is this a message from the grave?” The suspense was agonizing. He seated himself at his writing table and cautiously reached inside and pulled out one delicate page of parchment notepaper.
I hope this letter finds you well. I can’t imagine how you must be feeling right now and I know that if our bond were not impaired, you would have come for me. I have not given up that I will return safely to your waiting arms, just as I did when you reached for me the many times I descended the ladder. I could always count on your being there when I needed you most. Please know this. I will love you always. I close my eyes and my heart aches savoring the movement of our unborn child. I wish you could be here experiencing this profound miracle we conceived together. Please don’t ever believe you failed me. You didn’t. It is I who failed YOU. I should have been open and honest instead of being afraid that you would reject my proposal of moving down to the tunnels once I learned we were going to be parents. I would take it all back if I could. I don’t regret our child or our love, but I regret that our future is unclear in light of all that’s happened.
Vincent sat stunned. Was someone playing some harsh game to prolong his agony? He almost wished that Diana were nearby as she would jump at the opportunity to find out where this letter signed with only a “C” came from. A mystery was afoot and the resolution vague and distant. He decided that he would not speak of this letter to anyone until he had more information of its origins. He pulled an old journal from the shelf – the journal he scribed the first night he found Catherine in the park. He gently placed the letter back in the envelope and nestled it between the pages of the journal and placed it back on the shelf. If he could summon Christopher Gentian from the otherworld, he would certainly have his answer sooner than later.
Realizing it was nearly morning, Vincent felt no fatigue this night – he was in fact energized and ready to face the morning. He wanted to see his son and directly made for Jamie’s chamber. There he found Jamie curled up on the divan with Jacob sound asleep in her arms. Reaching down, he carefully removed Jamie’s grip and gathered up his son. Jamie’s eyes fluttered open, squinting up at Vincent’s looming frame before her.
With a stretch and a yawn Jamie sleepily pondered “Hmmm…didn’t know what time we fell asleep last night. Little Jacob had me going. I was exhausted and so was he.”
Wanting to reciprocate Vincent offered, “Jamie, if you don’t want to make the trip to William’s kitchen, I can bring breakfast to you this morning. What is your pleasure?”
“Oh Vincent you are such a romantic! Let me just get my slippers here and I’ll walk with you and Jacob. No sense in staying in the sack any longer than I need to. There’s work to be done today. Thanksgiving is coming soon and we have to ready the Great Hall, and then there’s Christmas and Winterfest not long after. We will surely be busy bees!”
“If there’s any assistance I can offer, please don’t hesitate to call on me,” Vincent replied. He acknowledged that Jamie occasionally took on more than she she could handle; but with her and Mouse acting in tandem, she accomplished more than most in the tunnel community. All he knew was that without Jamie’s help, he would not have the strength to be a parent to Jacob.
The weather took a turn as the howling winds above made it evident by the swirling leaves at the tunnel entrances to the park that Thanksgiving was near. William, Rebecca, Father and Mary were preparing the Thanksgiving feast as it was meant to feed not only the tunnel residents, but also the helpers and their families. The event was grand yet simple in its presentation. The meals were authentic to what the Pilgrims offered to their neighbors upon their arrival to the New World. Father enjoyed his role as story-teller and historian which bordered on educational to comical depending on his message.
On Thanksgiving Eve, Vincent strolled through Central Park’s shadows lurking about, seeking solace. He was overwhelmed with sorrow not felt since before the letter he found at Catherine’s grave some three weeks prior. That was the last time he visited her. He felt a pang of guilt at not attending to the grave, but with the festivities planned below he was needed to repair some tables and chairs and that took up much of his time. He never stopped thinking of the letter-it called to him-and he never went back to its place in the journal to re-read it.
He found himself in the cemetery just beyond the park near the water’s edge. He lingered a while at the outskirts hesitant to approach Catherine’s grave. To avoid detection he enrobed himself in his cloak and padded quietly, approaching her headstone from behind. He immediately picked up the scent of lavender and creeping thyme, which Mary and Olivia had planted last Spring. The aroma, delicate, heady and haunting surrounded Catherine’s plot like a halo. Not wanting to disturb the ground he stepped over the miniature garden and immediately something caught his eye. There was no moon tonight but his keen vision saw a flicker of white. His breath caught and his gasp seemed foreign to his ears. He knew what this was. He was certain of it.
The letter felt as if it would burn a hole in his chest, as it had been in the pocket of Vincent’s vest all night and the next day as he went about his pre-Thanksgiving tasks below. Again, it was merely a white envelope with the letter ‘V’ in Catherine’s familiar script. Why had he not opened it? Was dread or fear keeping him from her words? Disturbed that someone would play this sick joke on him, he was beyond forgiving. He made a vow to himself and Catherine that he would find the torturing culprit; inflicting repentance upon whoever it could be.
He decided that he would open the letter after the festivities ended and Jacob was down for the night. He needed to calm himself and find his center again so no one would suspect how uneasy he was. He recalled that after reading Catherine’s last letter, he felt momentarily reborn and that feeling lasted at least a week and he welcomed the relief and sense of normalcy again. He was determined to remain upbeat for the rest of the day and he looked forward to seeing Diana again as she accepted the invitation from Mary to attend this year’s Thanksgiving event. She admitted she didn’t want to miss out on one of Father’s stories.
Celebratory music bouncing off the rocky tunnel corridors twirled its way to Vincent’s chamber. Dressed in his finest array, Vincent spied himself in the cheval mirror Catherine had given him the previous year before her death. It was the first time he looked in the mirror since her death and he cherished its fine mahogany carving. Catherine enlisted the aid of Kanin and Mouse in her quest to find something appropriate for their anniversary. She copied the design from the original she fell in love with at the Guggenheim Museum and passed it along to their expert hands. Vincent had not been fond of mirrors, and Catherine insisted that he accept it as a token of her abiding devotion and in addition to that, Vincent could make sure that all his buttons were properly fastened in their corresponding holes.
A rustling outside his chamber brought him back from thought and there stood a small contingent of the tunnel community. “Hurry Vincent – Father’s waiting on you in the library and William needs us to help out in the kitchen. He’ll be plenty steamed if we don’t get back ASAP!” beckoned Eric. He was accompanied by Mouse, Sebastian and Kipper all donning floor length chef’s aprons.
“You all look very professional in your kitchen garb,” Vincent said with intended humor and sarcasm. “Go on then, back to your duties – I’ll be along shortly.” He turned back into his chamber, trailing the sound of their departing footsteps with his keen hearing. It was this keen sense which alerted him that Diana was nearby. Abandoning his cloak, he took one last glance in the mirror checking his buttons, lifted the pouch hanging over the frame. It held the rose and Catherine’s crystal; he draped it around his neck, wearing it near his heart, and then started for Father’s chamber.
Vincent had not seen Diana in several months. When he entered the library, she caught his eye immediately. Seated on the velvet settee with Jacob on her lap his giggles filled the room as she gently bounced him playfully on her knee. He flailed his arms around, having the time of his life. Vincent stopped in his tracks to admire the scene; wishing this could have been Catherine enjoying her son’s glee. He felt a momentary aversion to the sight, but suppressed it as he was determined not to allow negative thoughts spoil the day.
As he approached he noticed Diana seemed to be glowing; her texture fine and rested, her chestnut hair pulled back in a French braid adorned with flowing tendrils. She was striking and her haunting classic features reminded Vincent of a vintage Daguerre. Smiling up as Vincent came near, she reached out to greet him.
“Well, we meet again for another celebration in the tunnels Vincent. As I recall the last one was Jacob’s naming ceremony. Times flies doesn’t it?”
His ease with Diana was evident in his body language as he sat beside her and tickled his son’s neck making him giggle even harder.
“It certainly does.” he replied as he lifted Jacob from her lap. “If this frolicking continues Jacob will definitely take advantage of you. You are looking very well Diana.” He acknowledged her appearance which surprised her as she never really concerned herself with her looks.
“I have a secret.” Her mystery was soon revealed as she stood to reach for her teacup on Father’s writing desk. Not only did he notice that she still wore the large onyx ring on her index finger, Vincent immediately glimpsed a small bulge under a loosely fitted blue jean shirt with its bottom button undone.
“You’re going to have a child?” Vincent questioned. “My congratulations and I take it that marriage has agreed with you?”
“Good guess Vincent, but then again it’s getting pretty noticeable now. I’m due in mid-April and well, I think Steven is very excited about becoming a father. I don’t think I’ll be playing much of a mother’s role with the way he goes on and on about taking our son/daughter fishing, hunting, stargazing and all that.” Her laugh at the thought was refreshing. Vincent welcomed it.
Diana had met Steven while on the Chandler investigation and they connected immediately. She found his work as a forensic pathologist fascinating. They spent long hours working on various crimes scenes which cemented their budding friendship. She saw Vincent in this man and knew he was a keeper.
Her previous relationship had been fading as she dedicated herself more and more to her job. She was a cop and her first duty was to the department. It was her persistent hardworking spirit which got her noticed and promoted in record time. As the daughter and granddaughter of a police chief and a detective, law enforcement was in her blood and the path of least resistance. When she met Steven she questioned her priorities and not long after she found that there was a balance between her duty as an officer of the law and her commitment to a relationship. The rest is history as some say, as she found herself as wife, mother-to-be, chief of police, and tunnel alumni. She was contented and Vincent noticed it when he laid eyes on her again after so many months. Unfortunately, Steven was involved in a case in Pittsburgh and could not make the trip. He was well aware of the bond his wife had with Vincent and didn’t object because he was confident her life was fulfilled with him in Philadelphia.
“Diana, after the festivities, would you mind joining me in my chamber? I wish to discuss something you may be able to assist with.” Father’s eyebrows furrowed at this ambiguous suggestion as Vincent continued. “I’ve been puzzled with a mystery recently and perhaps your investigative knowledge can clarify.”
“Vincent, what is it?” Father inquired. His voice indicating restrained concern.
Turning to Diana Vincent asked again. “Will you join me? I’ll provide more details later, Father, as soon as I know what I’m dealing with.” Vincent in so many words made it clear that he was not revealing any more information until he was ready.
With that message conveyed, Father nestled the chess set under his arm, grabbed his cane as he rose from his chair and announced “Well then, we should be going to the Great Hall, the Thanksgiving festivities are about to begin.”
The evening’s activities included savory culinary delights, nostalgic tales, Sacred Harp music and dancing. The absences of friends and family not seen in the past several months meant much conversation, laughs and hugs. As an annual event all attendees were familiar with the routine that wasn’t. One never knew what kind of magnificent spread William would produce from year to year, and of course where there was Sacred Harp, there were helpers bringing in additional trays of old family recipes dating to the Pilgrims.
This year Rebecca created turkey crowns for all the children’s heads and their gobbling calls resonated through the Great Hall as they scrambled in, out and around the adults catching up on current events. Soon enough, however the tryptophan took its toll and the children were escorted to their chambers when sleep overcame them. Even Jacob being toted around on Samantha’s hip seemed too wobbly to keep his little eyes open. The late hour prompted Vincent to scoop him up, and accompanied by Diana, strolled back to his chamber to put little Jacob to bed for the night.
As they walked back, Diana was reminded of Jacob’s naming ceremony. It touched her that Vincent would have wanted her there to participate in the event with the rest of the tunnel community. She must have misconstrued somehow what his intentions were as she fashioned some romantic notion in her head that their friendship or bond or whatever it seemed to be would evolve into something deeper.
That was all behind her now and she was glad of it. There was nothing worse than pining for someone whose love was unrequited. She placed her hand on her abdomen feeling a slight movement and smiled.
“Diana, what is it? Your smile tells me something is afoot.” Vincent mused.
“Actually, Vincent – it could be a foot or a hand for that matter.” Diana giggled at the thought. “ I’m only along four months and this little boy or girl is creating a ruckus under my shirt.”
Vincent felt a stabbing sense of loss and anger. Evil destroyed any possibility of his having experienced such a moment with Catherine. Of course he knew of such miracles in the womb, and it would have been gratifying to see Catherine’s expression at discovering their unborn child’s antics. But here was Jacob slumbering in his arms as they reached his chamber. His own little miracle in the flesh.
When they arrived at Vincent’s chamber, he led Diana through the dark, cautioning her to watch her step. He lit a candle with his free hand. The emerging light glowed throughout the chamber and Diana recalled how much she loved being here enjoying Vincent’s conversation and holding Jacob when he was only days old.
“Here, let me take him.” Diana offered. She gently placed Jacob in his cradle and proceeded to diaper and dress him in his night clothes. All the while he softly slept. Vincent watched this tender moment and again imagined his beloved Catherine cooing her child to sleep. He turned away to remove his vest and prevent his nightly tears from spilling over. He didn’t want to spoil a perfect evening and give Diana a memory of his weakness and eternal sorrow. He had business to discuss with her and his resolve could not waver.
After Jacob was securely nestled in, Diana turned to Vincent now seated at his writing table. He seemed pensive yet uneasy and her curiosity peaked. Perhaps it was the cop in her that she wondered why she should assume the worst. She settled into the chair opposite him, leaning in, her interest evident in what he was about to reveal.
Vincent began his tale in perfect chronological order speaking of how he made nightly visits to Catherine’s gravesite and had found mysterious letters written in Catherine’s hand. Before he reached into the journal to reveal the most recent letter, he sensed Diana anticipation and waited for her response.
“Vincent, I don’t know who is doing this to you. Perhaps their evil goal is to drive you mad with grief.” Diana could only speculate on why after so many months since Catherine’s death, these letters appeared out of the blue and she wondered how many more would come.
“I waited until your arrival to open this most recent letter I found at Catherine’s grave as I believe perhaps you could make sense of this.” He slowly opened the envelope flap and Diana could see a faintly scribed “V” on the front. She saw two or three pages and as he unfolded it in front of her she confirmed that it was another one page and the lettering could be see through the fine parchment. Vincent began to read in his sultry voice.
My dearest Vincent,
The end is near; I feel it.
I know you must be tormented over not having located me
or our unborn child. He
stirs inside me as if he is trying to rescue the both of us from this
prison. I know you will find him
and take him below to the tunnels and care for him and love him
as a father should. I call him ‘he’
because after I was abducted, I was given an ultrasound and learned it was a
Vincent, I beg of you to not blame yourself or our child for my death. It is no one’s fault but my own. I have forgiven myself and will leave this world for a place of glory with God and for Him I will be your and our son’s angel forever protecting you and him from harm.
I sadly regret that I could not hold you in my arms one last time or feel your soft fur against my cheek, or hear you softly whisper my name. I ask that you not waste your precious days grieving for me. We’ll have a son soon and he will need you. Do not spend a moment brooding as life is too valuable for such empty ventures into mad oblivion.
Finally, remember me as your respite from sorrow, not the cause for your sorrow. Teach our son to cherish my memory and make him understand how much I loved him. See me when you look into his eyes, hear him speak his first words as you guide him with purpose through his life.
This will be my last letter to you my beloved as I hear them coming for me. I need to be strong right now. Know that I love you.
Vincent carefully folded the letter, placed it back into the pages of the journal and looked up to see Diana tenderly caressing her abdomen. She must have been deeply touched as he observed a single tear stream down her cheek.
“Oh Vincent,” she whispered as her voice conveyed her emotion. “I can’t imagine how Catherine must have suffered at the end, when she knew she would never hold her child in her arms. I can’t bear it!”
Diana placed her face into her palms and sobbed uncontrollably. The regret, sorrow, fear, anger and all that Catherine must have been feeling came alive in her right then and she could not push it away.
In an attempt to console her, Vincent reached under Diana’s elbows, lifting her from the chair and held her closely to his chest. What lay between them was Catherine’s pouch. He closed his eyes and a vision of Catherine smiling made him smile too. Leaning back from his embrace Diana wiped her tears with the back of her hand. Vincent’s smile was comforting but she knew what this smile meant.
As the hour grew to a close, Vincent and Diana found themselves near the entrance to Diana’s guest chamber. “Diana, I want to thank you for your support all these months and I believe I am ready to move on with my life. It’s what Catherine would have wanted me to do. I will love her for the rest of my life, but I must do as she asked and not brood over my loss. Jacob will know all there is to know about his mother and I will be by his side to ensure that her memory is preserved.”
Diana reached for his hand and caressed it gently.
“Vincent, I’m proud of you. You are truly fortunate to have found love with a woman who adored you. Your time with Catherine was limited and the obstacles overwhelming, but you both made your moments together magical ones. I only wish I could have a tenth of what you two shared. Hold it close Vincent, don’t ever relinquish it.”
She removed her hand from his grasp, stroked his chin and turned away. Vincent watched as she retreated into the candlelit chamber.
An awakening flowed over Vincent at that very moment. He felt as if the weight of the world was melting off his skin. It was exactly eight months since Catherine’s death. He still didn’t know who sent these mysterious letters, and he wasn’t going to allow it to torment him anymore. He was grateful for all that he had gained and lost even if it was the love of his life. He felt a rush of anticipation and turned quickly in the direction of his chamber. He needed to hold his son, a testimony to his beloved Catherine. In his heart he knew she rested in peace. Happy again, drifting in the heavens watching, always watching.