You mustn't let fear eclipse
Fear is all I have left to feel.
What about hope?
She's gone Father! Without a word or a sign! My sense of her . . .
Your empathic connection will return, Vincent. I'm sure of it.
And until then?
Until then you must have Patience, and Faith, Vincent! These are powerful healers.
Well for now it's all you can do.
Well then all I can do is not enough!
Though Lovers Be Lost (Written by Gansa & Gordon)
Vincent waited silently by the oversized table that stood in the center of the first floor of Father's two-story chamber. Father sat at his desk with several books spread in front of him. Head bowed, he seemed engrossed in cross referencing passages from two particularly large volumes. Vincent knew, however, that something other than the pages of the books was occupying his mind. It was in the way Father's lips were pressed too tightly together, and his brow was creased in worry rather than concentration. He sat, shoulders bent, and Vincent noted that he absently twisted the fringes of the worn brown scarf which hung loosely around his neck, a sure sign that all was not well.
And then there was Vincent's empathic gift. Through long association, made more intense by the close proximity of their subterranean existence, Vincent knew his adoptive father in the depths of his soul with an intensity reserved for only a few in his life. Through endless conversations covering every conceivable topic and evoking an equally endless range of emotional responses, he could feel at this particular moment that Father was worried. With two strides he had bridged the distance between them, and leaning across the table, Vincent laid his hand upon Father's and waited until the older man looked up.
"Father, are you going to tell me what's bothering you?" he said softly. "I know you're not concentrating on your reading."
Father took off his glasses, folded and placed them on the desk. The troubled look on his face further alarmed Vincent, but he waited patiently for him to speak. Theirs was a relationship of two kindred spirits who had openly shared their lifetime of experiences together and found in each other's company acceptance and understanding. Whatever was on his mind, Vincent noted, had been important enough for Father to call him away from working with Mouse and the others in refortifying several beams that supported an overpass in the lower tunnels. The structure was in no danger of falling, and their work had been more of a precaution rather than a repair. He could resume his work with them tomorrow. There was time, and Vincent's patience was infinite.
Father abruptly stood up from his well-worn armchair and walked to the base of the steps which led to the chamber's second floor library. When he spoke at last, the sorrow in his voice was unmistakable.
"Last night I had trouble sleeping, so I decided to read. Mary came by and left Jacob with me while she went to see about the other children. Jacob had been asleep, but soon awoke, frightened and calling for you. I tried to comfort him, but he wanted you without exception. Frankly, Vincent, I've never seen him in such a state. He was in tears and was actually fighting me to get to you. I am ashamed to admit that it frightened me. There was an intensity to his misery that I'd never witnessed before, and nothing I did would calm him. Always mindful of your bond to him, I feared something terrible had happened to you which only he could sense. So last night...I brought him to your chamber. You had just returned. . ."
Abruptly, Father fell silent and returned to his chair, sinking down slowly. "My thoughts have been on you ever since," he said gently. His final words were barely audible, but Vincent heard them clearly, along with Father's remorse over what had been inadvertently seen.
So this was what Father had been worrying over, thought Vincent. Father didn't need to elaborate any further for Vincent to know what he had witnessed last night with Jacob from the small brick vestibule leading to the steps that descended into his chamber. After returning from his journey into the deep recesses of the tunnels, Vincent's anguished heart had cried out his grief, and his mind had been lost within the turmoil of his own personal hell. Alone in what he had thought was the solitude of his chamber, he had revealed the true depth of his loneliness. Even now in his mind he could hear the pain reflected in his voice, guttural in its grief as he'd cried out, 'Catherine, I miss you.'
The agonizing memory of last night was as painful now as it had been then. Consumed by sorrow, he was not surprised that he had failed to sense the presence of Jacob and Father above him. Now, however, Vincent was acutely aware of Father sitting across from him and offering a shoulder to lean on. Reaching out, he gripped Father's hands, immersing himself in the older man's unequivocal love. Unnoticed, both men's grip tightened around the other's hands.
Vincent knew then that Father already understood the source of his anguish, for it was a sorrow they both shared in their own way in facing Catherine's death. From a past of awkward and often painful encounters, Father had grown to love and trust Catherine as the daughter of his heart. He not only mourned her death, but still felt remorse for his initial rejection of her. There were no words Vincent could say that would ease Father's guilt in that regard, just as the many words of sympathy had been inadequate to ease the guilt he felt over his failure to rescue her. It was obvious to father and son that both were shouldering heavy burdens where Catherine Chandler was concerned.
Thus, there was no need to waste
words as Father raised his head to look at Vincent. In the blue
depths of his eyes, Father saw his son's reluctance and understood
that to go on with this conversation would mean to encroach upon the
one subject that they had danced around for months, each trying to
hide from the other the overwhelming sorrow that Catherine's demise
had brought to both their lives. The scene he had witnessed last
night, however, had shown Father how wrong he'd been to abandon
Vincent to the privacy of his grief.
"Vincent," Father said softly, "neither of us can go on like this. Please, son, share your thoughts with me. Catherine . . . her loss to us . . . it's too much for you to carry alone."
Vincent wanted nothing more than to run as far as he could from the open concern and promise of help that Father offered. He had purposely avoided any discussion of Catherine since he'd safely returned Jacob from Gabriel's abduction. The relief and joy at Jacob's rescue had lifted the spirits of all who knew Vincent and Catherine. Yet, Jacob's return had reinforced for Vincent as nothing else could that Catherine was truly dead and forever lost to him. In the midst of the tunnel community's celebration at the child's safe return, Vincent found himself compelled to hide his continuing grief from those he loved; knowing that a display of his sorrow would only serve to hinder the healing that had begun for the others.
That had been over a year ago, and he'd soon found it easier to avoid any mention of Catherine rather than endure the sympathy of so many. Then there was Jacob to care for and also Diana, who was more than willing to guide him away from the dark grief that was always with him just below the surface. And when all else failed to keep him occupied, Vincent had been able to count on something within their world breaking down and requiring his strength, if not his skill, to be repaired. Thus, for the better part of the year he had pushed his physical endurance to the limit, even when there were others to help, as he ran with all deliberate speed away from his memories and prayed each night that his exertions had been strenuous enough to induce an untroubled sleep.
In now facing the grief reflected in Father's eyes, Vincent could see clearly into his own tortured soul. Catherine's death was, quite literally, tearing them both apart, and though she might have ceased to exist in life, she was still alive in both their hearts. Vincent realized he had to face the truth: He needed to talk about her.
Lowering his head, he searched for the words to explain his feelings to Father. The force of his emotions was like an ocean held back by a tiny dam, where leaks had begun to sprout. Afraid of what might pour forth, he looked up at Father with a hopelessness that begged him to let the whole matter go. But Father had not come this far to allow Vincent to close himself off, not this time. With determined steps marred only by a slight limp, he rose and walked over to his son, gently embracing him as he had in the by-gone years of Vincent's childhood.
"Vincent, we must talk about her. If not for us, then for Jacob's sake. It was because of Jacob that I was at your threshold last night. For one so young, he has your compassion, and it is clear that he is coming into his own empathic abilities. He feels and absorbs so much from all of us. But most of all, he feels you. Last night I realized that his bond to you is stronger than I ever imagined, for he sensed your unhappiness even before you returned to your chamber. That was why he was inconsolable, Vincent. If you continue to hold these feelings within, how will this ultimately affect Jacob? And God forbid that you become ill from the stress you're under! Then what is to become of your son bonded to you at such a time?"
Abruptly he stopped, at a loss to make Vincent understand the danger to little Jacob. In any event, anything more he might have said died as a groan of pure misery filled the chamber, and Father became aware of the stricken, pained look on Vincent's face. Despite his desire to soften the impact, the truth of his words had indeed hit home.
Vincent looked up at his father and found that he could no longer meet the gaze of those steel gray eyes. Until now he had never discussed the dark periods he endured over Catherine or that he still blamed himself for allowing her to die. In much the same way that Father had not wanted to bring up painful memories, Vincent had not wanted to burden Father with his endless grief or the admission of nightly dreams and waking nightmares.
How could he confess to Father that in his dreams Catherine was still alive and beckoning him to come to her, to find her; but with the dawning of each new day, the reality of finding her dying body over a year ago stilled any hope he had that his dreams were anything more than unfulfilled desires...desires that now, would never be. For him, the days had become his purgatory, and the nights, his hell. He had managed, at least until last night, to hide his tormented soul, keeping it bottled tightly within as he walked and lived among the others. But had it truly been hidden where Jacob was concerned? For so many months he'd thought that he, alone, was in pain. A new wave of fear washed over him as he considered the enormity of the burden he may have laid upon his son through the bond they shared.
He now recognized the true wisdom of Father's insistence that he start to face the various manifestations of his grief. Father, above all men, would understood his suffering. Thus, steeling himself, he searched for the words to share this part of his life with the man who had held and wept with him during the raw hours of grief after Catherine's death....the one man whose own losses made him able to understand the depths of Vincent's pain and the guilt that threatened to consume him.
"Father, please, sit with me."
Relieved that Vincent would not shut him out, Father released his son and settled into a chair beside him.
"I don't quite know how to put it into words...."
His voice cracked, and bowing his head, Vincent feared his emotions would yet overwhelm him and deny him even the relief of sharing this with Father. Fighting down the impulse to run away from the pain, he gripped the edge of the table and continued.
"Father, the pain of her loss has never left me. It has never eased. If anything, it's only grown stronger, and from what you've said, it would seem Jacob is beginning to sense it also. Truly I fear your words...for I may not have the strength to completely block my pain from him. Yet he must not continue to experience this with me. It is a hell no child should visit....a hell from which even I fear I may not return."
Father shifted quietly in his chair and waited for Vincent to continue. When he did not, he reached over to cover Vincent's clenched hands with his own, completely ignoring the deep imprints of his son's claws on the table's surface. He searched for the words that would convey to Vincent the love and understanding he felt and his total acceptance of Vincent's right to still mourn Catherine. He, of all people, knew that there was no time limit for grief. He prayed silently that his words, so inadequate in his own mind, would be sufficient.
"Vincent, I know your pain. There is no shame in still feeling it, even now; and no one, myself least of all, expects you to feel anything other than what's in your heart. Just as you shared with me your love for Catherine, you can share your grief, and I will be here for you. Perhaps together we can find the same capacity to forgive ourselves that we found to love Catherine. Come, son, try to tell me, and perhaps you'll find peace in the telling."
Rather than being comforted, Vincent seemed to become more exasperated as he cried out in reply, "Father, how can I tell you something I don't understand myself?"
He stopped for a moment, staring straight at Father and was as open to the older man as a favorite book. Father could plainly see that Vincent was truly at a loss to express himself. Understanding this, Father squeezed the clawed hands that he still held in the safety of his own. From that small gesture of encouragement, Vincent drew the strength to press on.
"It hasn't always been as bad as last night," he began slowly, "but at times a blackness surrounds me, so real that I feel I could touch it. I know that doesn't explain much, but I feel as if she is there with me...in that blackness. I can feel her, Father, as if our bond had never ceased to be....but what I sense is fear and such sadness that I have never known in her. Through the darkness, I reach out. Repeatedly I try to go to Catherine, but each time that I feel she is almost within my grasp, she disappears, and I wake to find myself alone."
"Father, since the day I lost her, the only comfort I have found is in the belief that Catherine is safe now, truly safe: where danger and evil can never touch her again. But the thought that she might be somewhere else, the place I see in my dreams, and beyond my reach, tears me apart. It brings back everything...the pain...the grief...the shame of failing her...everything. Sometimes at night the memories flood through me, and I keep thinking of what I could have done...should have done...to change things. She told me once that as a child she had been afraid of the dark, but with me she knew no fear of the night, no fear of the darkness. In my heart I live each day with the fear that I not only let her die, but I've left her to face her greatest fear alone."
Father sadly looked on as Vincent's agitation transformed into motion. No longer able to sit still, Vincent withdrew his hands from Father's, stood for a moment, and then sat again, straddling the chair. He then roughly shook his mane of hair to sweep the bangs from his eyes, and failing in the attempt, ran his fingers impatiently through them. The result was little better and only served to further add to his already disheveled state. Such distraction in Vincent was seldom displayed before others...but Father was not the others. So, with hands gripping tight to the back of the chair, Vincent continued with the same despairing intensity.
"If it were not for Jacob, for his life, I would have followed her gladly into death. No. Do not look alarmed, Father. Jacob is here, and I know I must also be here for his sake. Yet, how do I continue my life when everything within me tells me that Catherine is truly not at peace, but alone....drifting and afraid?"
Vincent stopped, head bowed, exhausted from the telling of his deepest fears, and even more afraid that Father would dismiss his apprehensions for Catherine's departed spirit as merely another manifestation of his grief. However, in the quiet of the chamber, Father remained still, knowing that there was more that Vincent needed to say and needed to have someone hear. Presently, Vincent looked up, and when he spoke, it was barely above a whisper.
"Father, did you know that Catherine knew she was carrying our child, even before Gabriel abducted her?" The shock on his face told Vincent that he did not. Taking a deep breath, he continued. "She came to me one night. I could see the turmoil in her, but I was too preoccupied with myself and with my own problems. They were so small compared to the burden she was bearing. Father, I know now that she had come to tell me of the child. Instead, she ended up comforting me! When I asked her what was troubling her, she told me it could wait. That her concern for me would lead her to think that such news could wait until a better time, and then there was no other time. My God, Father! She put me above everything. She sacrificed everything that she was for me, and I could only complain about the loss of our bond! Do you now understand my shame? Even with our bond broken I was aware of her unrest, and yet I did nothing."
What Father did understand was the sound of guilt, and he raised his hand to stop Vincent from going on. "Vincent, we can all look into our past and see where we may have taken the presence of a loved one for granted, or put off saying the things in our hearts, not knowing that it would be our last opportunity. Only a short time before, you were at the brink of death, and you were still so weak from your ordeal. It was Catherine's choice to withhold the knowledge of the child from you. So if you feel you must blame someone, then you must blame her. Yes. I see you are unwilling to look at it from that angle. Then, Vincent, you must accept her decision and the love that led her to make it, and in so doing, you must let go of this guilt which serves no useful purpose."
Suddenly Vincent was on his feet and began to pace the length of the chamber, once again looking more agitated than comforted by Father's words. His anguish was palpable and filled the room with an electrifying tension. Father sighed silently, knowing that in the fluid motion of Vincent's pacing was a restlessness beyond consolation, so overpowering that Vincent would not...could not...sit still now if his life depended on it. He couldn't count the number of times he'd seen his son thus affected, and for once was grateful for the solid rock surface of the chamber floor that yielded little comfort to his aching hip, but had withstood years of Vincent's endless, agitated pacing.
Adjusting himself in the chair, Father didn't even consider getting up to follow Vincent in his sojourn from one end of the chamber to the other....neither did he offer anything else other than his presence at the moment. Ever since the time when Vincent had retreated into that god-awful cave where Catherine had rescued him, a new balance had been struck in their relationship. Though still a man of definite beliefs and unafraid to voice them, Father had learned when to be still and listen.
Listening now led him to realize that even beyond grief, Vincent was filled with guilt and regrets concerning Catherine that were far more serious than could ever be resolved by their conversation. Vincent's heart needed time to heal, and with that insight, Father's thoughts then flew to Diana Bennett. As Vincent's father and the leader of their community, he felt an obligation to this woman who had assisted his son and returned his grandson to his rightful home. He had naturally assumed that she had begun to fill the void in Vincent's heart. Ignoring any voices within that told him to stay clear of Vincent's personal life, Father made a note to himself to speak with Diana. He did not relish confronting her on such a personal subject, and of course she would resent his intrusion in her private life. But for her sake, as well as Vincent's, he felt he must. Diana had been too good a friend to their world to let her fall head-long into dreams of a relationship that could not be...at least not now. It was more than clear to him that there could be no future for Diana and his son until he'd purged himself of the guilt and obsession for Catherine that he clung to as fiercely as he had his love for her. It simply wasn't fair to leave Diana hoping for more from Vincent when he was still obviously in love with Catherine, even if the memory of Catherine was all that was left for him to love.
Once again, Father pondered how death
had truly had no dominion over the depth of love Vincent felt. He
then thought back to the many years it had taken him to reconcile his
own pain after losing Margaret. He never for a moment felt that his
relationship with Margaret could compare to the bond that had joined
Catherine and Vincent. So how much longer, then, would it take his
son to come to terms with the death of the woman who had been bonded
to him in ways that even they, themselves, had not fully
Seeing him so distraught now, Father doubted if Vincent even realized that Diana desired more from him than just friendship. For all of his empathic abilities, Vincent could be quite oblivious to the obvious when it suited the reality he wished to believe. He only hoped that when he informed Vincent of his talk with Diana, he would understand his motivation was more for her benefit than to control Vincent's life. Catherine had taught him the futility of that course of action, and for everything that Jacob Wells might be, he was certainly not one to ignore lessons taught to him by life. Vincent's romantic involvements might be his own personal affair, but to innocently lead Diana to hope for more was not to be tolerated. She deserved better from their world than the brutal heartache of misinterpreting Vincent's attentions when all his son sought was friendship and a diversion, any diversion, from his wounded heart.
Glancing up, Father absently noted that Vincent still paced in silence. At this moment, Father suspected Vincent had all but forgotten he was in the room with him. He was reluctant to stop him, since the pacing seemed to be easing the tension that had built through the first part of their conversation. With despair, Father silently prayed, Dear God, must he suffer so? Will there ever come a time when he will be able to make peace with himself for not having found and rescued Catherine?
More than anything, Father desired for Vincent to find the happiness in life that he so deserved, but he knew that Vincent would never be ready to face such a future until he had made peace with his past. Deciding that the silence had gone undisturbed for long enough, Father pulled himself from his inner thoughts and cleared his throat with notable exaggeration to get Vincent's clearly distracted attention. With a sincere reluctance to have to bring Vincent back to the their discussion, he gently said to him, "Vincent, please, don't be so hard on yourself."
For the better part of half an hour Vincent had paced nonstop. At Father's words, he paused abruptly and suddenly whirled around to face him. His hair whipped across his face, and his eyes shone like fire with an anger that was clearly directed inward.
His voice did little to disguise his self-loathing as he announced, "Your words make so much sense, Father, but it is my heart that tells me that I have not nearly been hard enough on myself, not by a long shot. Catherine brought me out of my madness; she accepted me and all that I am and blessed me with a son. If only I had looked beyond myself, perhaps I would have seen what was happening around her. Perhaps I would have sensed that she was in grave danger, regardless of the loss of our bond. Then I could have brought her to me...insisted that she live here where she would have been safe."
"Vincent," Father interjected with sudden emotion, "what happened was beyond your control! Surely you can't believe that you were responsible for her abduction and death?"
"No, it was . . . Gabriel. I know that." The weakness of Vincent's reply told Father that in some skewed fashion he did, indeed, blame himself. Before Father could respond, however, Vincent continued on, and his line of reasoning soon became abundantly clear.
"Look Father, I know that I was not the cause of Catherine's death," he admitted. "But while I may not have killed her, neither did I do anything to prevent it! If only I had allowed her to stay Below with me just one of the many times when she asked, perhaps she'd be alive now."
"Perhaps," Father said gently, "the two of you would have discovered that she could not live among us, no matter how much she imagined our world would be enough. Perhaps you would have found that all of your love and hers, could not keep her from her being a woman of the world Above. Vincent, to have forced her to stay among us when her spirit was with her life in the world Above would have imprisoned her. You didn't permit her to be killed by allowing her to return to her world. You gave her the only way the two of you could love and still live. She was of that world, Vincent. Nothing you could have done would have changed that."
"There you are wrong, Father. The child would have changed it," Vincent said in deadly earnest. "I know that in my heart, Father, as surely as I know that she loved me. Over the past year the trials we faced had only drawn us closer. In my heart I know she truly was ready to come Below....to bear our son and begin our dream of a life together. I believe she wanted to tell me that on the last night she came to me, if only I had been able to hear! Sometimes I even wonder if her death is, in some way, my punishment for impregnating Catherine when I was little more than a crazed animal . . ."
Vincent found that he could no longer continue and turned away from Father. His proud head was bowed, and one hand held onto the banister of the stairs. His hair rippled down his back, and it was only then that Father realized that Vincent was shaking as though trying to push away some horrible vision that only he could see.
The sight of him in such misery brought tears to Father's eyes, which he quickly wiped away with one end of his scarf. In their stead, Father drew a deep breath as shame and anger warred within him for control. Catherine's determination to love Vincent despite his repeated admonishments to the contrary had brought Father to the sad realization that he was largely responsible for Vincent's view of himself. Certainly as patriarch of their world he had no guilt for imposing limits on his son's life that had been necessary for his safety and survival. But that Vincent would even consider himself deserving to be punished for creating little Jacob was the result of a life-long indoctrination, and Father knew he was at fault. He had taught Vincent to fear his differences; to reject his sexuality; and to guard against his alien nature and primal instincts, the same primal instincts that they had all relied upon so often to protect their world. Granted, it had been done out of love and to protect Vincent from....from....from only God knew what, he finally admitted to himself in shame. With all the events of the past several years, Father found himself at a loss to justify many of his earlier beliefs, and even more reason to regret them. And now, along with his shame, rose an overwhelming urge to shake some sense into his son. How in the heavens could Vincent believe that young Jacob's life was the result of a brutal crime demanding the mother's death as a punishment to the father? That he would even give voice to such an abominable thought made Father bristle inside, and before he could clamp down, his booming voice halted Vincent dead in his tracks.
"Vincent, how dare you! Have you so little love for Catherine and her sacrifice or the miracle of your son's existence that you would relegate it to a barbaric act of mere lust?"
Knowing full well that he had no choice but to continue, Father took a deep breath and with obvious effort, tried to control his rising temper as he lowered his voice.
"Vincent, you loved her, and nothing short of love and a miracle reclaimed you in that cave! You may pity yourself. You may mourn your loss. You may even imagine that the conception of Jacob was savage, although I know otherwise. I was there when Catherine emerged from that cave with you, and I can swear to you on her memory that there was nothing horrifying about the glow of love and blessed relief on her face. There was no harm to her, no bruises, no look of trauma or shock. So, Vincent, think as irrational as you will . . . but you will not degrade yourself or the lineage of your child with such words! I accept, willingly, my fault, my crime, in seeing you so narrowly and instilling beliefs that inhibited you from giving your love to Catherine without fear. I will eternally regret my ways and ask your forgiveness for a parent's mistakes.
"But enough is enough! You are a remarkable man who I am proud to call my son. Use the wisdom and knowledge you possess to put aside your self-hate and guilt. Do it now, Vincent, for yourself and for your son, lest you find yourself inflicting Jacob with the same feelings of inadequacy. Vincent, show me that you have forgiven my ignorance in raising you by not repeating my mistakes with Jacob. Love him and allow his uniqueness to be celebrated, not feared...and most certainly do not cause him to regret surviving, when his mother did not. He is the ultimate testimony of your love for Catherine. Don't debase your son by viewing him as anything less."
Father discovered he was breathing heavily as he paused, and for the first time noticed that Vincent had ceased his pacing. The look on his son's face told him that Vincent had, indeed, heard his words. He would have gladly given his own life to prevent Vincent the pain of losing Catherine; but if Vincent was to raise little Jacob alone, he would have to begin to accept himself, as well as his child.
As Father looked on, Vincent's gathered the scattered remains of his dignity about him, standing straight and imposing as his impressive height gave a nobility to his bearing that was uniquely Vincent. Looking at the determined countenance of his son, Father knew that Vincent was truly proud of little Jacob, as much as any father had the right to be. He also know that for the sake of his child, Vincent would gladly embrace death. It now remained to be seen if for Jacob's sake he could equally embrace life. When finally Vincent spoke, Father heard the steely resolve underlying the familiar, deep timbre of his voice.
"You have stated some hard truths, Father, and as difficult as it may be for me to accept all that you have said, in this you are right. I love Jacob to distraction. He is all of life that I have left of Catherine, and he is the reason I find the will to live each day without her. Never would I deny him my love or his birthright, such as it is. I sometimes lose sight of that, and I have no defense other than the pain of losing Catherine. Still, I know that Jacob needs me whole and well, Father. I am at a loss, though, as to how can I be the kind of father he deserves, tormented as I am by nightly images of her death and specters of her unrest."
Rising from his chair, Father went to Vincent, pulling him close until Vincent's head rested gratefully on the older man's shoulders. For Vincent, Father's embrace had always evoked feelings of acceptance and love. Now as a man full grown and with a child of his own, the feelings remained the same. For a long moment he simply basked in the love of the man who had claimed him above natural birthright as his son.
The feelings between father and son formed a solid band of love that surrounded Vincent and Father. Jacob knew that Vincent's pain was real, as real and as deep as his love for Catherine had been. Sadly, he also knew that once again there was nothing more he could do to make things better. And so he simply held him. It was the only thing Father knew to do, the only thing he had ever known to do, when only time and love could heal the pain. It was a simple act of human contact, but it touched Vincent's heart and brought him the first true peace he had known in weeks.
After a while, Vincent raised his head. Looking at his son, Father came to the conclusion that in a very real sense, Vincent had experienced death that night with Catherine. Caught in the downward spiral of a lover's tragedy, a part of Vincent had also ended on that rooftop. Releasing Vincent from his embrace, Father wiped away the evidence of tears that seemed to come more readily as he grew older and returned to his chair.
"I know, Vincent, that what you feel is real," he said gently. "It hurts me that there is nothing more I can do to stop your grief or ease your guilt, but you will survive/ The pain is a part of the healing that you mustn't fight. Let it run its course, son."
"Listen to your heart, Vincent, and let love guide you through your loneliness and grief. Don't blame yourself for the evil that took her away. Don't berate yourself for feeling the pain of her loss and missing what she meant to your life...and don't fear for Jacob. I saw him last night while you were in so much agony. Once he could see that you were not destroyed by the pain, he was alright. Truly he was. Feel the love within your bond to Jacob. He can handle whatever your ordeal may bring."
"But Father, mine is such a heavy burden for a child to bear," Vincent said quietly.
"Vincent, you underestimate Jacob. He is more than just a child. he's yours and Catherine's son. He's is unique...alive, despite everything that conspired against his conception and should have destroyed him before he ever drew his first breath. Vincent, he is as remarkable as you. Trust the bond you share as father and son to protect him. Trust yourself not to harm him. He will survive this, Vincent, but only if you do."
"How can you be so certain of all this?" Vincent asked in genuine wonder.
"Because of you, Vincent. You told me once that maybe you had no choice but to follow your heart.....to love Catherine. I spent so much time in the past fearing for you both. But fear or not, you gave your heart and allowed yourself to experience life through loving Catherine. Now, through both of you, Jacob lives."
"Vincent, no matter how you think you may have failed her, your love for Catherine never wavered. She knew that, even at the end, and in telling you of Jacob's existence, she passed into your safekeeping the embodiment of the love you shared. She truly understood that death has no dominion, though the lovers be lost. So in honoring her, let her loving sacrifice be the foundation upon which you begin to forgive yourself. Have faith, Vincent: in your love for your son and in yourself."
"It is so hard . . . " Vincent whispered.
A small smile came to Father's face. "Well, Vincent, that's life for you. A few of us are blessed to find love along the way which makes the hardships easier to bear. But yes, you are right. It is very hard to live, to struggle, to persevere when all one truly wants is to give up the fight. To survive after a loss such as yours takes true courage and faith, Vincent. We will always feel the void that Catherine's presence once filled in our lives. But you have the strength to go on, d you are not alone. I am here for you. Jacob is here. Our entire community is behind you,.and while we may not completely understand the depth of your grief, we will pray and continue to have faith that all will be well.
Vincent remembered another talk with Father not long ago while he'd searched for Catherine. Consumed with rage at his inability to find her, he'd vented his frustrations. Yet even then, Father had advised him to have faith. At that time, faith had seemed nothing more than a meaningless word, impotent to stem the tide of his anguish over Catherine's disappearance. Now, in the aftermath of her death, he finally understood that faith was a force to be reckoned with. With faith, one had the strength to believe that the forces of good would, ultimately triumph over the forces of evil. Faith imparted the courage to face the reality of tragic loss. And while, there would be tragedies as with Catherine's death, there would also be great joy as in Jacob's life. Nodding his head, Vincent now replied, "For my sake and for Jacob's, I will find the strength to have faith, Father."
The two men looked at one another and met on a level so personal that each felt the strength of the love that would forever connect them. Father's smile grew, and he felt that a great weight had been lifted from his soul. Perhaps the healing had finally begun, for both of them. Heaving a sigh, he stood. It was time to go on.
"Vincent, I promised to meet with Pascal about a new short-cut for the pipe code. It's really quite ingenious and uses the same basic code as our current system, but takes half the time. If you're certain that you are alright?"
Vincent walked over to Father, and gave him a final embrace "Go, Father. Please. I'd like to remain here for a while, but I feel better now than I have in some time. While I don't expect the pain of Catherine's loss will cease, I will keep the faith that the reasons behind it will be revealed to me in time."
Father gripped Vincent's shoulder momentarily, and then started out of the chamber. Stopping at the steps, he turned back to Vincent.
"Vincent, should your dreams of Catherine become too much for you to bear, promise me that you'll come to me. We'll search for the truth together."
At the skepticism reflected in Vincent's countenance, Father added, "Remember, Vincent, you must have faith."
With a rueful shake of his head, Vincent said, "Father, I know. I know. It's just that faith seems such a small thing to combat the demons that plague me. But alas, it's all I have left.
As he exited the chamber, Father startled Vincent with his reply. "You may be surprised to find, son, that it is all you will need."
Vincent smiled, and long after the
taps of Father's cane had faded into the distance, he sat alone and
thought of Catherine. The memories, good and bad, poured over him.
This time they healed him, bringing to him a peace of spirit that had
been absent in his life for far too long. In later years Vincent
would remember it was on that day amidst books and tomes and the
rhythmic tapping of Pascal's new pipe code that he sat in Father's
chamber and rediscovered his faith.
Continued in Chapter 4