GROWING PAINS

*April - November 2015*

 

Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind.

- Shakespeare

 

"You seem pensive today."

"Just thinking," Vicky answered. Her voice held no particular inflection; she was simply imparting a bit of information.

The young man who strolled beside her holding her hand stopped. "Ninny," he chided gently. His voice was inflected with an upper-class British accent. "That's what pensive means."

Charmed, she smiled at him. "I know."

"Thought you would," he said placidly. "So what are you thinking about?"

"My family."

"Your... oh, that's right. Today's an American holiday, isn't it?"

"It's called Thanksgiving," Vicky informed him. "It's a traditional family holiday."

"American turkeys," her young man added. "I've read about it. Some sort of fowl, isn't it?"

"Don't be flip, Dylan," she warned.

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to sound that way," he assured her quickly, solemnly.

"I know you didn't. It's just..."

"Just what?"

"I can't help remembering what it's like. We have traditions. We always go to be with my father's family and friends; everyone dresses up, and there's this huge feast, with turkeys and hams and pies and everything. And the older people tell stories, and somebody always plays music." In her mind's eye, she could almost see them. "They'll be sitting down to eat in a few hours, and I can't help wishing I was there, too."

"Now I feel like the ninny," Dylan said gravely, his brow furrowed in concern. "I wish you'd told me before about this holiday. We could have done something to celebrate; gone to dinner, perhaps. I've already promised my grandmother, but..."

Vicky smiled. "You're sweet, Dylan, but there's no need to disappoint your grandmother. And you've already made my day special. We're walking together along a lazy country lane; it's a gorgeous fall day - warm, but with just that little nip to remind you that winter's coming..."

His smile was touched with relief. "You find joy in the simplest things," he said admiringly. "I wish I could do that." He sighed. "Anyway, I've got tickets for that play you wanted to see next week. We'll have dinner first and call it our own holiday. Meanwhile..." Grasping her hands, he drew her toward him, kissing her gently. "Happy Thanksgiving, Victoria."

She kissed him back, enjoying the affectionate contact. "Thank you, Dylan," she whispered.

"Won't you be lonely this evening, though?" he inquired solicitously.

She shook her head. "No. My mother will call me, and probably my brothers..." Pulling out of his hold, she tugged at his hand, urging him to continue on their walk. "Don't feel sorry for me, Dylan. I'm the one who wanted to come to England. I've only myself to blame if I'm alone sometimes."

"You Americans are a strange lot," he observed. "You've travelled thirty-five hundred miles to get away from your family, and yet I know you're fond of them. I hear it in your voice when you talk about them."

"I guess it seems pretty strange to you," Vicky agreed amiably. "I just needed some space, that's all. My family's great, especially my parents, but I just had to get away from my father."

"Why?"

"I don't know how to explain it. He's really understanding; he always listens, and I know he loves me. But I'm his only daughter, and the youngest, and..." She let her voice trail away and Dylan nodded sympathetically.

"I see. Maybe by the time you're home again, he'll see how grown up you are."

"Maybe," she agreed dubiously. Wrapping an arm around his waist, she rested her head on his shoulder and their walk continued in congenial silence.

Today it seemed Vicky couldn't help thinking of home, and thoughts of home naturally led to the circumstances that brought her to England.

It was really the bond between her and her father that caused all the trouble, she mused silently. Her father had the ability to block out his emotions so she couldn't feel them, and Vicky had believed she'd mastered the skill as well. The memory of her very first kiss, however, and the icy shock-wave of reaction from her father, cut off a split-second too late, could still make her blush two years later. But she'd been practicing and was absolutely certain Vincent didn't feel it when she kissed her boyfriend anymore...

* * * *

 

Ready for bed, Catherine was at her dressing table, brushing her hair. Behind her, Vincent sat on the edge of the bed, pulling off his boots. She smiled at his reflection in the mirror. "Listen."

He lifted his head, meeting her gaze in the mirror. "To what?"

"To the silence."

His expression was one of tender amusement. "Yes," he agreed. "Weekends are peaceful now that the children are older. Speaking of the children, where are they tonight?"

"Evan and Carey went to a movie, and Vicky's out with..." In the mirror, she saw him suddenly go rigid, and whirled in alarm. His eyes were distant and glazed. There was no response when she called his name. Dropping the brush, she went to him, touching his face.

"Vincent, what is it? What's wrong?"

He gave a long, violent shudder and made an inarticulate sound.

"Vincent, what's wrong?" She almost shouted her alarm, shaking him.

"Wait," he managed, gasping. "Wait." Sinking down, he wrapped his arms around her waist; one hand grasped her arm. She cradled his head, ignoring the discomfort the strength of his grip was causing.

All he seemed to want from her was strength, and she gave it willingly, holding him as tightly as she could, kissing the top of his head where strands of silver now threaded through the gold. At last his crushing hold eased and the tight, keening noise he'd been making stopped. He sagged in her arms, the odd tension draining away while she continued to hold him, stroking his hair.

"What was it, Vincent?" she asked again, when he seemed more able to speak. "You frightened me."

"I'm sorry," he murmured, his breathing ragged. "I couldn't..."

"Was it Vicky?" Fear for their daughter made her grip his arm hard. "Is she all right?"

"Yes... with Sean, I think," he said, too carefully.

Comprehension broke over Catherine like an icy wave. "Oh, my God." She understood it all now... Vincent's distress, his physical response, his need for her strength... "Oh, my God."

Distress of another kind enveloped him. "Catherine, she's so young... too young. Only seventeen..."

"Not so terribly young," she murmured, trying to comfort him. "She's old enough..." Other thoughts were crowding out any concern for their daughter's youth. "Does she know?"

"No. I was able to block it, I think."

"Vincent, we have to tell her. She has to know..."

* * * *

Vicky beat her midnight curfew by a minute and a half and came up the stairs singing. Lights beyond the open door of the master bedroom meant somebody was still awake, so she tapped on it and breezed in. "Hi, Mom, I'm home, safe and sound." Without waiting for a reply, she bounced to sit cross-legged on the foot of the bed.

"So I see," Catherine replied carefully, marking her place and setting her book aside. "Did you have a good time?"

"Yeah..." Vicky drew out the word, smiling dreamily. "Sean's so special."

"Yes, he's a very nice boy," Catherine agreed. She was looking for an opening into what was going to be a very tricky conversation, and Vicky gave it to her.

"Where's Daddy?" she asked. "I can't feel him."

Briefly irritated, Catherine wondered how the child could be so obtuse before remembering her own youth, all those eons ago, and the all-encompassing glory of first love.

"He's not here," she said gently. "We thought it best if he stayed away right now... he's blocking you."

For a moment, Vicky stared in bewilderment. Then, flushing scarlet, she clapped a horrified hand over her mouth. "No. Oh, no! I never thought..."

Embarrassed, she jumped to her feet, taking refuge in physical action. "I never felt him!" she cried in denial. "He wasn't there! I would have felt him!"

"He blocked his feelings from you, as he's doing now. He tried to block yours, Vicky, but he couldn't."

"Oh, no," Vicky whispered. "He felt it all?"

"All," Catherine confirmed compassionately.

"How could he do that to me?" Vicky said suddenly, humiliation turning to anger. "How could he spy on me like that?"

"He had no choice, Victoria!" Catherine's tone was sharp, but Vicky was too furious to listen.

"All my life he's spied on me!" she shouted. "I can never do anything without him knowing! I hate it!" Whirling, she stormed out.

Alarmed, Catherine followed. In her fury, Vicky wasn't hard to trace; the sound of her footsteps sounded clearly as she pounded down the main stairs and back to the kitchen, where more stairs led to the basement. At the top of the basement stairs, Catherine paused.

Vicky was clearly going Below, probably to confront her father. What ensued between them would not be easy, but it was unlikely that Catherine's presence would help; this was something Vincent and Vicky would have to come to terms with together.

Catherine climbed the stairs slowly, sinking down on the edge of the bed. Pushing up the sleeve of her robe, she bent to inspect the four small, triangular wounds spaced about an inch apart along the soft skin on the inside of her upper arm. There would be bruises there tomorrow; clear evidence of the distress Vincent had endured. He never even knew he had hurt her.

Heart aching for the pain she knew he and Vicky were suffering, Catherine curled up under the covers, aware that it would be a long time before Vincent joined her this night, if at all.

* * * *

"How could you!" Vicky stormed into her father's chamber Below in full fury. "How could you do that to me?"

"Victoria, please..." Vincent's voice was calm and rational, but Vicky didn't want to be soothed.

"I can't do anything!" she raged. "Everything I do, everything I think or feel, you're there. And I hate it!"

"Please sit down."

"I don't want to sit down! I want you to stop! I want you to stop knowing what I'm doing, and I know you can't! It's not fair!"

"No. Life often isn't," Vincent asserted gently.

"It's a curse, Daddy! I don't want to be empathic. I don't want to know what you're feeling, or what Mom's feeling, or what Carey's feeling, or anyone! I don't want it anymore! Tell me how to make it go away!"

"You know I can't do that. Victoria, what you and I share is sometimes difficult to bear, but it is a gift, not a curse."

"It's not. There's nothing good about it; it's a violation..."

"Sometimes," Vincent agreed. "It's a gift that carries with it great responsibility..."

"I don't want to be responsible! I want to be like everyone else!"

"Sometimes what you want isn't possible, Victoria," he reminded her gently, and she wondered guiltily if he had ever raged, wanting to be like everyone else.

Her wrath ebbed, leaving mortification in its place. "Oh, Daddy," she whispered, suddenly close to tears. "I don't know what to do."

He rose then, moving around the table to take her gently in his arms. "I'm sorry, Belle," he whispered. "I would have given almost anything not to have been there, with you, tonight. Just... be careful with your heart. I don't want you hurt."

* * * *

Catherine was still awake when Vincent came to join her in their bed. "Is she...?"

"She'll be all right," Vincent said heavily. "She's upset and angry... with me, with fate..."

"She's young, Vincent. She wants life to be perfect and it hurts to find out it can't always be that way."

Vincent didn't reply; Catherine could hear the sound of his even breathing. "Vincent?"

"I'm here." He reached for her hand in the darkness. "Catherine..."

She waited.

"How old were you... when..." His voice faltered. It was a question he had never before asked.

"I was nineteen," she answered quietly.

"Did you love him?"

"I thought I did."

"Later... were there regrets?"

She could sense the distress behind his hesitant queries; Vicky's troubles had always affected him intensely and Catherine understood his need to put their daughter's experience into some kind of perspective. "Not then; not for a long time," she answered softly, turning her head to look at his profile, silhouetted in the dim glow from the french doors beyond. "Not until I found you, Vincent. It's the one thing I wished I could have given you..."

"It doesn't matter. It never did." He rolled over, wrapping his arms around her, burying his face in her hair. "I love you, Catherine."

She held him, wishing she could give him peace. "I know."

* * * *

A few days later, Vicky sat morosely on the front steps. The sun had set but the streetlights hadn't yet come on, and the gathering gloom suited her mood perfectly. She half-heard the click of heels on the sidewalk, but didn't really notice her mother's approach until Catherine began to climb the steps.

"Hi."

"Hi," Vicky answered, not looking up.

"We haven't seen much of you the past few days," Catherine ventured.

Vicky waved her hand in a half-hearted gesture. "I've been around. At Cassie's, and I've been going on some long walks. Thinking."

"Do you want to talk about it?"

"No."

"All right." Catherine seemed unruffled by the terse rebuff, sitting down and arranging herself as comfortably as possible on the cold cement steps. "I'm glad this day is over," she said conversationally. "Joe was a bear this morning. One of the interns accidentally dumped a computer file, and for some reason there was no backup. The case goes to trial in two weeks and the whole thing has to be reconstructed from notes and memory."

"That's too bad," Vicky replied absently.

"I talked to Jenny today; she might come to dinner next week, if..."

"Don't!" Vicky interrupted, almost savagely. "I know what you're doing."

Catherine paused. "What am I doing?"

"You're trying to make me think that what's happened doesn't matter; that everything is normal. And it's not!"

"I'm trying to let you know I care about you, honey," Catherine corrected gently. "I'm trying to be sure you know I'm here if you need me."

"Oh, Mom, I know you're there! You always are. I just..." She shrugged and looked away.

"Vicky, about the other night..." Catherine began, tentatively.

Vicky tensed. "What?"

"I think it's past time you and I had a talk..."

"Mom, I know all about the birds and the bees," Vicky said stiffly.

"What about birth control?" Catherine asked softly.

Vicky recoiled as if she'd been struck. "God, Mom, I'm not totally irresponsible!"

"I know that," Catherine said gently. "I also know how easy it is to get caught up in feelings, and how easy it is for things to happen."

Vicky gave her mother a sharp glance. "We were careful, okay?" she said finally, uncomfortably. "Can we talk about something else?"

"Sure we can. But couldn't we go inside?"

"Daddy's in there," Vicky said forlornly.

"And right now he makes you feel uncomfortable," Catherine observed.

"They all do," Vicky lamented. "Jacob and Carey know something's wrong; even Evan sees it. I know they mean well; they just want to help, but I want to be left alone!"

"Does that go for me, too?" Catherine asked quietly.

Vicky shook her head quickly. "No. Don't go yet. Sometimes I think you're the only one I can talk to."

"That's not true, Vicky. Your father loves you very much and is trying very hard to understand your side of this. You can talk to him, too."

"I can't. Not now. He knows it, too. It's too hard - too embarrassing." Vicky felt curiously isolated for the first time in her life; her father had placed a rigid block on his emotions, effectively cutting her off from him. She knew he did it out of kindness but it left her feeling oddly disconnected.

"Then talk to me," Catherine urged. "I'm listening."

"I want to; I just don't think you can understand..."

"Why not?"

"Because... because you're married! You're a mother!"

"And I'm old," Catherine added gravely. "I know. But I was seventeen once. Don't think I can't remember how it felt. Have you seen Sean?"

Vicky shook her head. "Not really. At school, in the halls... I don't know what to say to him. He wouldn't understand... And I can't be alone with him, not now."

Catherine nodded sympathetically. "Yes, I imagine it's difficult." She smiled suddenly.

"What?" Vicky demanded, sensing... almost amusement, incredible as it seemed.

"I'm sorry, I just thought of something."

"What?" Vicky demanded again. "Tell me!"

Catherine's smile widened. "I'm not sure I can."

"Come on, Mom. I could use a laugh about now."

"I don't know if you'll laugh, but..." Catherine paused, gathering her thoughts. "There used to be a saying, back in the nineties, 'paybacks are hell.'"

"Paybacks? You mean me? What did I do?"

"My darling daughter, did you ever wonder why your father learned to block you so completely?"

Vicky's eyes widened in sudden comprehension. "You mean..."

Catherine nodded. "There are things one cannot do with one's eighteen-month-old child empathically eavesdropping..."

* * * *

Head flung back in passion, Catherine offered her throat for Vincent's eager kisses, her hands touching and caressing his shoulders and back. Suddenly, he raised his head and stiffened, his eyes wide and unfocused.

"Vincent?"

With a groan, he rolled away from her to lie on his back, one arm flung over his eyes. Catherine rolled with him, bracing herself on an elbow to look down on him in concern.

"Vincent, what's wrong?"

"That child," he grated, between clenched teeth.

"What child?" Catherine asked in bewilderment.

As if on cue, a rhythmic thumping started in the nursery, accompanied by a sing-song chant. "Dad-dee, Dad-dee!"

Catherine looked toward the sound and back at Vincent. "Vicky?" She didn't get the connection.

Still speaking through gritted teeth, Vincent explained. "She is feeling what I'm feeling... everything I'm feeling."

Partly in relief that it wasn't something serious and partly over the absurdity of the situation, Catherine began to grin. Vincent glared at her balefully and she collapsed on her pillow, laughing.

"I fail to see the humor in this," he said stiffly. Sensing his displeasure, Vicky's happy chant deteriorated into a tearful plea and he rose, picking his nightshirt up from the floor.

His affronted dignity sent an unrepentant Catherine into a fresh wave of mirth and she pulled the covers over her head to avoid his cold stare.

"Oh, god," he heard her gasp from under the sheets, "there goes my love life!"

When he came back from the nursery with Vicky in his arms, Catherine had outwardly regained her composure, sitting with her knees drawn up under her chin. She reached for their tearful child and he deposited the small figure into her arms.

Always most sensitive to whoever held her, Vicky's mood changed immediately and she patted her mother's cheek playfully. That was enough to shatter Catherine's fragile control and she once again dissolved into laughter. Vicky laughed with her, and the two of them rolled helplessly on the bed while Vincent glared.

Two weeks later, it had ceased to be funny.

"What are we going to do, Vincent?" Catherine asked in frustration. "It's only going to get worse as she gets older, and I'm too young to give up sex forever."

With time, Vincent had regained both his perspective and his sense of humor. "No one is requiring you to," he said, too reasonably. "She can't feel you."

Catherine punched him on the arm. "But you can," she said wryly. "Besides," she added, settling comfortably, if chastely, against his shoulder, "my standards are quite exacting. I doubt I could find another man who could meet them."

She rubbed her hand across his chest. "I mean it, Vincent. What are we going to do?"

He sighed. "I've been giving it some thought," he said quietly.

"And?" she prodded.

"Do you remember when Winslow died?"

"How could I forget?" she answered quietly. "He gave his life trying to save me."

"Yes. Do you remember why Pascal and Winslow were with me?"

"Because you couldn't feel where I was," she replied promptly. "I had blocked you..."

"Precisely."

She lifted herself on an elbow and frowned down at him. "But Vincent, I did that by not allowing myself to feel anything that would draw you."

"I know that," he replied reasonably.

"Well, doesn't that sort of defeat the purpose? I mean, if you don't allow yourself to feel anything, what's the point?"

He laughed, quietly. "We'll have to hope that I can learn to control the block," he said. "I'll have to learn to shut her out without affecting what I feel, and I'll have to teach myself to do it automatically, without thought."

"What if you can't?"

He smiled. "How does celibacy sound?"

"We'll send her to live in China first," Catherine replied, only half kidding.

It had taken weeks of trial and error, compounded by several frustrating false victories, but he had done it. He tried to explain the process to Catherine, but even Vincent wasn't certain how he isolated his feelings from their daughter while still experiencing them himself.

Vincent knew he had finally succeeded on the day he lost his temper in a council meeting, slamming an angry palm against the table top in his fury. Vicky, playing quietly on the other side of the chamber, had never even looked up. In celebration, he had literally swept Catherine off her feet that night and carried her off to bed.

* * * *

"So you see, honey, there is a solution for this; you're just going to have to work on it," Catherine finished.

"I don't know if I have that much patience," Vicky murmured, startled by her mother's unexpected candor.

"Tell me about it," Catherine said sardonically. Immediately apologetic, she covered Vicky's hand with her own. "I'm sorry. I just want you to understand that this situation with Sean isn't going to solve itself. You're going to have to work on it."

Vicky hesitated, groping for words. "But if we go out, he's going to think... he's going to expect... and I can't even tell him why I can't."

"Maybe you could tell him you need some time to think," Catherine suggested.

Vicky shook her head doubtfully.

"Vicky, if he cares for you the way you think he does, the way I know you want him to, he'll put your interests first, ahead of his own."

"The way Daddy does with you."

"And the way I do with him," Catherine said. "But Sean's young, honey, and I think you need to be prepared if he isn't as understanding as you'd like him to be. I don't want to see you hurt."

"Be careful with my heart," Vicky said dully, knowing it was too late to be careful.

"That sounds like good advice," Catherine said cautiously.

"Daddy gave it to me," Vicky said, choking on a sudden sob. Turning swiftly, she put her head in her mother's lap and cried. Her heart was already breaking.

When she finally got up the courage to talk to him, Sean was as gentle and supportive as Vicky could have hoped. "When you're ready," he said gravely, kissing her forehead.

It was hard, though, not to kiss, not to touch, so they indulged, planning to stop in time. Neither could foresee just how difficult it would be to pull back from the brink, but this time Vicky could feel when control of her emotional block began to slip and pulled away.

"Don't, Vic," Sean murmured, reaching for her, nuzzling her ear. "Don't stop. You're so beautiful."

"We have to, Sean. You promised." She could sense his bewilderment as he struggled to understand. "Please."

Pulling away, he ran a hand through his tousled hair, breathing hard. Watching him, Vicky felt small and insignificant. "I just don't understand," he said roughly. "Last week..."

"I'm sorry," she whispered.

"It's okay," he said automatically, but she could tell his heart wasn't in it. Underneath, he was seething with frustration, and after a few minutes, he stood and offered her his hand. "Come on. I'd better take you home."

Silently, Vicky let him walk her home. On the steps, he bent to give her a perfunctory kiss, and she clutched his hands. "Don't go away mad," she pleaded.

"I'm not mad."

Her empathic sense knew better. "Yes, you are. I'm sorry, Sean. Just be patient with me? Please?"

He smiled slowly and pressed his forehead to hers. "Anything for you, Vicky. Anything."

"Time, Sean. Just a little time." *Please*, she begged silently. *Let me learn this fast*.

Sean kissed her goodnight, and she wrapped her arms around

his neck, holding tight. Unexpectedly, passion flared again, but when Sean tried to deepen the kiss, she stiffened in his arms.

"Damn it, Vicky," he growled, stepping back. "This is making me crazy."

She was fumbling for the right words when a childish, sing-song chant interrupted.

"Sean and Vicky, sitting in a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g..."

Sean turned. "Shut up, Evan, or I'll pound you into the dirt."

Evan and Carey, just back from a movie, stood on the sidewalk grinning. It was unlikely that Sean could pound six-foot five, two hundred and thirty pound Evan into anything, but since the boys were friends, it didn't matter. Sean started down the steps, pausing to give Evan a friendly punch.

"'Night, Vicky," he called. He didn't look back.

Bleakly, Vicky watched him go, ignoring the other boys coming up the steps. Evan eased past her with only a mocking grin, but Carey paused, his dark eyes solemn.

"Is everything okay with you and Sean?"

His earnest compassion was the final straw. "No," she whispered, choking back a sob. "Nothing's okay anymore." Pushing past a startled Evan, she fled to the refuge of her room.

* * * *

The answer, when it came, literally fell into Vicky's lap one morning.

"The packet I've just passed out should be taken home and discussed with your parents. Those of you who are interested in the program can fill out the application, have one of your parents sign it, and return it to the office by next Friday." Vicky barely heard her homeroom teacher speaking as she studied the glossy pamphlet from the envelope on her desk. A few days later, after careful thought, she approached her mother gingerly.

"Mom, can I show you something?"

Catherine looked up from her desk. "Sure, honey. What is it?"

Vicky held out the pamphlet; Catherine picked it up slowly, reading.

"An exchange student? To England?"

"It would be really educational, Mom," Vicky said rapidly. "I could go see Stonehenge, and Buckingham Palace, and the Tower of London. I could go to Stratford-on-Avon, to see where Shakespeare lived - and Big Ben, and Parliament..."

Her mother was silent, studying the brochure.

"You went to Europe when you were young," she pleaded. "You said you'd never forget it. I'd go to an English school, live in an English home..."

"And what about Sean?"

Vicky bowed her head. "Things aren't going so well for me and Sean," she whispered. "I thought I loved him; maybe I still do; but I think it would be good for us to be apart for a while."

"I'm sorry." Vicky felt Catherine's hand on her hair. "I know it hurts."

"There's something else, too... it's Carey."

For once, her mother actually looked surprised. "Carey?"

"I can feel him, Mom. It scares me."

"I don't understand. Do you mean you feel Carey the way you can sense your father?"

Vicky shook her head. "No. It's different."

There was a pause. "The way your father can sense me?"

Startled, Vicky shook her head. "No!" She surprised even herself with the vehemence of her reply and felt her mother gazing at her dubiously.

"Can you tell me what's different?"

Vicky sighed. "No. But it is... It's just something that's happening. I just want to go to England."

"To get away from your father," Catherine murmured.

Vicky blinked, ducking her head. "Is it that obvious?"

"Vicky, the two of you spend half your time avoiding one another. I'd have to be blind not to see it..."

Vicky sank into a chair. "I love Daddy, Mom. You know I do. But it's so hard..."

"I know, honey. I've been remembering my father when I was your age, and trying to imagine how I'd have reacted if he knew what I was feeling." She gave a small laugh. "It was hard enough when I was twenty-nine, and had a very protective friend playing emotional voyeur in my life."

Vicky looked up. "But that was different. That was Daddy."

"Yes, sweetheart, but he started out as my friend. There were difficult times for both of us before we truly found each other."

"I never knew that. I thought you saw each other and just fell in love."

"Love's rarely that simple," Catherine answered softly. "We did love each other, but it took a long time to find our way."

"Did you ever go away?"

Catherine's voice was very low. "Yes."

"Did it help?"

There was a pause. "Yes."

Vicky squeezed her hands together. "Will you talk to Daddy?" She nodded toward the brochure.

Catherine came back from her memories and smiled. "Yes, honey. I'll talk to him."

Vicky never knew what form of persuasion her mother had used. Her father hadn't acceded easily, but he had, finally, given his reluctant approval and in June she'd travelled to England. At first, she'd been horribly lonely; she'd never been so far from home and family. But, as she'd hoped, the life-long connection with Vincent was severed by distance. For the first time in her life, she was free of emotional links.

In the beginning, she and Sean exchanged letters, but as the summer wore on, the flow of trans-Atlantic mail dwindled and finally dried up. It hurt, but by then she had met Dylan, an English boy who lived near the family Vicky was staying with, and he helped make up for a great deal. By autumn she had settled comfortably into her new life.

* * * *

 

26 November 2015

Dear Daddy,

Even though it's not Thanksgiving here, I know it is back home, and everything I do seems to remind me of it. Oh, how I wish I could taste William's turkey and dressing! Thinking of you, all together, makes me realize how very much I miss all of you - even Evan.

I don't want you to think I'm not happy here; I am. Everyone has been kind to me, trying to make me feel welcome; it just isn't home. But in spite of that, it's a wonderful experience and something I'll never forget.

I've learned so much from this. So many things that once seemed important are becoming almost inconsequential, and things I had taken for granted have taken on so much more substance. Maybe it's a matter of perspective; I like to think I'm finally growing up.

And maybe that's something I couldn't have done at home. I know it can't have been easy for you to let me go, but I thank you for finding the strength to do so.

Why does growing up have to be so difficult? It would be so much easier to fall asleep one night as a child and wake the next morning as an adult. Why does it have to be so painful? If only someone could find a way to bottle maturity, wisdom, and experience; you could have it whenever you needed it, instead of learning things the hard way.

I'm not sure I'll ever understand it all, especially our gift, but I am beginning to find the truth in what you've told me. I feel like the Little Prince, when he speaks of his flower. 'I was too young to know how to love her...' But I'm growing up now, and I think I'm learning to accept the responsibility. Anyway, I'm trying.

Thank you, Daddy, for everything. I love you.

Belle

THE END