CHAPTER SIX: DIANA
Father, there is something more that I should tell you. Someone has come into my life - someone from the world Above - a woman.
Her name is Diana. She works with the police, investigating Catherine's murder.
And you went to her?
She found me, near death. She brought me to her home. She nursed me until I was well again.
And what - what do you mean, 'she found you'?
Over the months she gathered the threads of my life with Catherine; wove them together; understood. Truly, Father, she understands. She knew that I would return to Catherine's grave.
The Chimes at Midnight (Written by Campanelli & Moore)
Having just been informed that Diana was Below, Father made his way to the children's chambers with uncharacteristic haste. He had already surmised that Diana had come to see Vincent, and in missing him, had gone to visit young Jacob instead. Still, regardless of the purpose for her visit, Father saw this as the opportunity he'd hoped for to speak with Diana privately.
Vincent had been gone since early morning with a repair crew that wasn't expected to return until late into the evening. Father was well aware that he couldn't have asked for a better set of naturally occurring coincidences, and it was only reasonable for him to make use of this opportunity. However, upon arriving at the entrance of the chamber, he paused. What he had to say to Diana would not be easy on either of them. Of course, the discomfort of a subject had never stopped him from speaking his peace in the past. Another time suddenly flashed in his mind, bring back the early confrontations he'd had with Catherine. But no, Diana was not Catherine, and his intent was no longer to dictate Vincent's personal affairs. As he gathered his composure, the only sign of Father's uncertainty was the perspiration on his brow which he impatiently wiped away with the worn handkerchief he kept in his pocket.
As he entered the large chamber which served as the playroom for the children, he was met by the site of Diana surrounded by toys and sitting comfortably on an old rug in the center of the floor, cross-legged, with Jacob in her lap. Father found himself stunned speechless by the seldom witnessed event of Diana with her head flung back, laughing. At the sound of her laughter, he was once again struck by her forthright beauty and the clear affection she had for his grandson.
Seeing her so carefree and at ease with young Jacob, Father felt the same twinge of doubt that had caused him to pause outside of the chamber. Diana obviously loved Jacob, as Father was certain she had also fallen in love with Jacob's father. He still could not fathom how Vincent remained blind to the attraction Diana felt for him. But then, perhaps Vincent did know and simply chose not to confront the issue. It wouldn't be the first time that Vincent allowed a matter of the heart to lie dormant. It was this insight which strengthened his resolve. Diana had to be told, and there was no better time than the present.
It wasn't until Jacob scooted away from Diana's lap and ran to his grandfather on what were still somewhat wobbly legs that Diana looked up to see the older Jacob standing in the room.
"Granfa!" Jacob cried, obviously pleased to have another unexpected visitor. Despite his stiff hip, Father lowered himself to Jacob's height with outstretched arms that wrapped around the little boy in unrestrained love and pride.
"And how is my namesake today?" Father greeted.
"I'm playing with Dinana! See?" and with all the self-importance that comes with emerging toddlerhood, Jacob pointed a chubby finger back to where Diana was still sitting on the floor.
"Hello, Jacob," she said, and taking advantage of her freedom to tease the patriarch of the community, she added, "What brings you over here with the little people?"
"Actually, I was coming to see one of the big people, Diana. I came to speak with you."
"Oh?" she said a little warily. "Well, if that's the case, can it wait until we've picked up this mess?"
"Certainly." Turning back to Jacob, Father gave the child another quick hug, and pointed him back in Diana's direction. "I'd just bet, Jacob, that Diana could use your help in putting away those toys."
Anxious to show his grandfather what he could do, Jacob ran back over to Diana and began to lob his toys into the large wooden crate, all along punctuating his actions with, see Granfa!
When all of the toys were finally packed away, Diana scooped Jacob into her arms and turned toward one of the inner chambers, calling back to Father, "Just let me leave little Jake with Brook, and I'll be right out."
Jacob waved good-bye enthusiastically to his grandfather. As they entered the side chamber leading to the children's sleeping area, Diana didn't see Father wince at her words. He knew Diana was loathe to call him Father, and certainly many of the helpers called him Jacob. That was his name, after all; but to call his grandson little Jake? He had heard somewhere that Diana had a penchant for nicknames, but this was the first time he'd heard one used. What must she call Vincent? he wondered. With a definite tightening of his shoulders, he prayed the day would never come when his proud and dignified son was reduced to answering to the name of Vinnie. All in all, it didn't sit well with him that his grandson and namesake was wearing the tag of Jake. In his sage opinion, it didn't fit the rambunctious youngster - not at all. Whatever did she think the naming ceremony had been all about?
Allowing himself a sigh of exasperation, he pushed these thoughts
out of his mind. What he had to speak with Diana about would be
difficult enough without adding his dislike of her nicknames to the
discussion. Schooling the scowl on his face to a more neutral
expression, he waited for her to return.
"So, what can I do for you?" Diana said, as she came up to him. In truth she already felt that this talk wouldn't be the high point of her day, and even without her ability to "hunch" things, the mere fact that he had come personally to seek her out bode of something serious. But she couldn't very well refuse to speak to Vincent's father. She took reassurance, however, where she could find it and reminded herself that she and Jacob had always gotten along civilly; and at least theirs wasn't the all-out war that he had waged with Catherine. With that thought she willingly took the arm that he offered and allowed him to escort her out of the children's chambers.
"I thought we could go to my chamber to speak privately, Diana," he said once they were outside and well beyond anyone who might hear. Coming from someone else, Diana might have been suspicious of such an invitation. Coming from the senior Jacob, she merely nodded her head in the affirmative.
Although she had promised herself she wouldn't, after walking for a short while, Diana broke the silence. "I've got to admit, you've got me curious....care to let me in on what's going on?"
Father only smiled, patted her hand and said, "Not here, my dear. Patience." And he continued to lead her down the main artery that emptied into his chamber then, further down, Vincent's own. Once they arrived, he offered her a cup of tea, which she declined as he expected. He offered to send for coffee, but she rejected that also. She obviously impatient to have this over with, and after pouring his cup of tea, he finally settled down next to her. At that point, Diana knew something was wrong. She'd never been in Jacob's chamber when he hadn't separated himself from her by all manner of books scattered across the large table that he used as a desk. Resisting the urge to fidget, she tried to forget her discomfort as she focused on the patriarch.
Clearing his throat, Father took a steadying breath and began. "Diana, I sought you out today as a friend to speak with you about someone I care very much about."
"Vincent," she said without thinking.
"Hmmm, yes. Vincent," Father echoed. A little taken aback by Diana's unconscious display of her empathic ability, he took a quick sip from his cup and pressed on before his nerves overwhelmed his good intentions.
"Diana, I know you're aware of my past involvement in Vincent and Catherine's relationship. Please be assured that this is not the intent of my talk with you. Believe me, I've learned since that time not to dictate or second guess Vincent's personal life. Likewise, I hope you know you've become a treasured part of our family, and your help to Vincent and Jacob has not gone unappreciated."
"Thanks, Jacob, but I still don't see . . ."
"Please, Diana," he interrupted, "allow me to finish first. You may find this hard to believe, but speaking on this is difficult for me, but it's because of the high esteem that I have for you as a helper and friend that I am compelled to see this through."
Jacob's words reached her, and for once, Diana held back. She felt
his sincerity, and although she sensed that it was misdirected, she
was willing to give the old man his say. Leaning back in her chair,
she let go of the breath she had been holding and waved for him to
continue. She couldn't promise how long she'd sit and take this, but
for now she'd listen.
Father didn't bother to hide his surprise. He really hadn't expected her to allow him to go on. Still, he was aware of Diana's temperament and knew it was best that he complete his message expeditiously.
"Diana, Vincent is my son, and I know him to be one of the most unselfish souls God's ever graced on this earth, but he has his weaknesses, like any....man."
Father's pause on the word man was hardly noticeable, but Diana was trained to notice such things, and she looked up sharply at him. Father saw the reproach in her eyes, but he wasn't about to apologize to Diana for stumbling over a word that even Vincent refused to use for himself. Thus, he ignored her and continued.
"I know you are aware of his grief over Catherine's death, but I wonder if you are also aware of the pain he is in. No matter what he says or does to put those of us who love him at ease, it is all a facade behind which he mourns Catherine's death, blames himself, and tries to find solace in the memories. And just like anyone who is under such persistent stress, any diversion is welcomed as a distraction from the pain. I fear that you, my dear, are such a diversion. Your presence in his life is a blessing to him and Jacob, but I believe it may not hold the same meaning for him that it does for you. That is why I felt I must talk with you. If I didn't fear for the toll this charade of Vincent's will ultimately take on your personal and emotional welfare, I would never have opened this Pandora's Box."
Slowly, Diana sat up until she was only sitting on the edge of the chair, and for a moment, Father thought she was going to leave. Then she spoke so low that he found himself leaning toward her to catch the words.
"Jacob, let me get this straight. You came to tell me that Vincent's interest in me is not romantic, and you're telling me all this because you care about me and don't want to see me hurt?"
"Well, yes. Yes."
"I have to hand it to you....for someone who doesn't involve himself in Vincent's personal life anymore, you sure as hell seem to me to be very much involved."
When Father failed to respond, Diana looked somewhat embarrassed by her snide remark, and with genuine contrition, she added, "Sorry, that was a low blow, but I think you're reading this all wrong. I am Vincent's friend: no more, no less. That's all that's ever been between us. I don't know where you've come up with the idea that romance is a part of the equation, but there's nothing - not for him and not for me. So if that's what you wanted to hear? There. I've said it. Rest assured I have no designs on your precious son, so does that calm your worries?"
Father had lived far too long to be put off so easily, yet, he had to give her credit for making the effort to sidetrack him. His instincts, however, told him that he was right on the mark and it would take more than an act of bravado to make him change his mind. Reaching across he gently placed his hand over hers, and with true compassion in his voice, he replied to her.
"Diana, I've known you to be blunt, but I've never known you to be cruel or unfair in your assessment. Try to believe me when I tell you that if you and Vincent choose to have a relationship, nothing would make me happier. I know now that my son needs a companion and young Jacob needs a mother. So, contrary to what you may think, it's not my intention to dictate your future with or without Vincent. But I would be negligent as your friend and the leader of our small community if I didn't tell you that Vincent is not yet ready to give his heart to anyone. And even more, I greatly fear that additional pressure to get him to do so would be disastrous for you both."
Now Diana did stand up. She turned her back on him and searched wildly for some way to regain control of the conversation and her emotions. She was determined not to cry in front of Jacob, but in her heart, she knew that what he said was true. She wasn't wearing blinders, no matter what he thought. She knew that Vincent's attention held nothing more for her than friendship, and although she yearned for his love, the small hope she had nurtured deep in her heart had now been crushed by the caring words of an old man. If she had any pride, she'd have walked away from the entire situation after Jake had been safely returned. But even then she knew she had fallen in love with Vincent, and she simply couldn't stay away. In the end, it was love that had stripped her of pride. No, not love: Vincent, she admitted to herself. His very name caused longing, hope, and despair to surge through her, all in equal doses. She could no more walk away from him than she could stop breathing, and what was more, she didn't want to.
Turning back to Jacob, she raised her head until their eyes met, and she asked him, "So what would you have me do?...stop coming here?....stop allowing him to visit me Above? Exactly what do you want of me, Jacob? Should I just stop seeing him or being a friend to his son?"
At this, Father sat straight up and ran his hand nervously through his hair. "For God's sake no, Diana! Please, sit down and hear me out. I'm not saying to stop your friendship with Vincent or any of us. I only ask that you bear in mind that Vincent is still holding on to Catherine."
Slowly, Diana sank back into the chair, and after a pause, she looked at Father. "You say he's holding on to Catherine? But she's dead . . and he's gotten better," she began.
"No!" Father interjected forcefully.
"That's just it! To Vincent, she isn't dead, and he hasn't 'gotten better. He's only gotten better at hiding his pain. Don't you see, that is what I thought, too! Perhaps that is what I wanted to believe to ease my own guilt after the way I treated Catherine. It was only toward the end that I understood that their love was meant to be, and just as they had begun to find true happiness, with my blessing, she was gone. I won't prevaricate about it, Diana. I have my own share of guilt to shoulder for my actions where Catherine and Vincent are concerned, but now all I want for Vincent is for him to once again find the joy in living, in loving. Suspecting the depth of your feelings for him, I had even thought that he would have turned to you, and he still may. But now is not the time!"
"Why do you keep saying that?" she cried in obvious distress.
Father could see that Diana was in denial, and inwardly he balked at having to further explain why her hidden desire for Vincent was, at its best, wishful thinking. Stalling for time as he determined how much she should know, he removed his glasses and wearily rubbed the bridge of his nose. He'd tried to be gentle, but it would obviously take the brutal truth to make her face the reality of the situation with Vincent, so taking the bull by the tail, he answered her question.
"I had hoped that you would understand, and that details would not be necessary. But I see now that it may be the only way that you'll believe the truth for what it is."
Diana watched the patriarch of this underground community draw in a deep breath, as if he were steeling himself for battle. He sat forward and gripped his cane so tightly that his knuckles shone white. At his grim expression, she felt her confidence begin to waver. Then, shaking off the feeling, she faced Jacob, and her looked challenged him to take his best shot. She had never run from adversity in her life, and she wouldn't start in front of him. Father noted her stance and knew that nothing less than the truth would do for this woman.
"Diana, Vincent still dreams of her. He still wakes in the darkness calling her name, his pillow wet with the tears of his sorrow. He walks for hours into the night trying to escape the guilt he feels, and when he holds his son, he looks at the child and sees Catherine, not as a memory, but as the only reality he will allow in his heart. Facing life is a trial for him with only brief moments of peace, for he is always on his guard to project the image that everyone expects of him. It's no wonder that he's fooled so many, including you. Even with your own degree of empathy with Vincent, you still have not suspected the truth. Look at all you know about him, Diana. You have seen him sit for hours at a time by her graveside. Do I really need to go on?"
"No. Don't." she whispered. Tears had suddenly appeared in Diana's eyes, and for a moment Father stared at her in shock. He hadn't meant to bring her such pain. But understanding the source of her sadness, he gently embraced her, and for the second time in his life, he found himself comforting a woman whose sorrow was the fact that she'd fallen in love with his son. Swallowing the guilt he now felt anew, he tried to console her.
"Understand, my dear, that my words were said out of concern for Vincent, and for you. I never meant to bring you heartache, only an understanding of where Vincent is now, and the fact that I don't want to see you torn apart by it. He still needs time...time to heal. I don't know how long....his scars are so deep...but you deserve to know the truth. What you do with that knowledge, is for you to decide. I can't tell you not to love him, that's out of my hands; but, my dear, don't let your love for him destroy you."
For a long while she was silent. Somehow, her hair had come untied from the knot she'd twisted it in, but she paid it no attention. Then as if summoning some inner strength, she pushed back from him and hastily rubbed her eyes. Turning to face Jacob, her voice remained steady as she told him, "I understand what you did today, Jacob, and honestly, you' haven't told me anything I don't already know. But there's also something you must understand, and perhaps it will put things in perspective for you. When it comes to loving Vincent, I simply have no choice. When it comes to Jake, I love him as if he were my own. So you see, I have no alternative other than to wait for Vincent to get over Catherine. It may take a while, but she is 'dead' Jacob - truly gone from his life. And I'm here. This I say with no disrespect to Catherine's memory, but the fact is that when Vincent is ready to reach out to love again, I want to be the one he reaches for."
"And what happens, Diana, if Vincent is never ready. What happens if he never lets go of Catherine?" Father quietly interjected.
That question gave her pause, and Father realized that she had never considered Vincent's nature: his stubbornness and unwavering loyalty and most of all, the depth of his love for one, Catherine Chandler. She had truly not considered the possibility that Vincent might never get over his first true love; he might never let go of Catherine. And as Father watched, he saw the thought form in her mind. He saw the possibility take root to become a part of Diana's reality, and that is when their conversation slid downhill at the speed of an approaching avalanche.
Diana's face was now flushed with emotion. Father noticed that both her hands were balled into fists. Oh my God, he belatedly thought, have I misjudged her ability to face the truth? And from an extensive history of experiences in handling a son with his own share of volatile emotions, Father waited for the impending storm to break, with the hope that afterwards, reason would reassert itself. He hadn't long to wait as Diana now glared at him in fury and let the full force of her displeasure be known.
"Jacob, when did being patriarch of this world include predicting everyone's behavior? You no more "know" what Vincent will ultimately do than I do. So let me give you some friendly advice. Don't try to get in between Vincent and me. Whatever happens, or doesn't happen, is strictly our concern. Right now I doubt he'd be any happier to learn of our conversation than I've been to sit here and listen to you. I've only endured this, because regardless of how misguided or controlling you may be, I do believe you truly love Vincent. But understand this: I love him too, and I am not Catherine. I will not be bullied into backing off, and as far your insight . . .I've heard that you've had your own share of mistakes and heartaches. Well this is 'my' heart, and I reserve the right to give it to whoever I choose and even have it broken if that's what I choose. So stay out of this, Jacob. In this you, you have no jurisdiction.
With that she grabbed up the worn jeans jacket she'd been wearing and bounded up the stairs. Father leaned back wearily in his chair. It was fairly obvious that he had failed to convince her that his intention had been to spare her the pain of unrequited love. Yet, he even understood her anger: for it was the product of her helplessness to do anything about the feelings Vincent still carried for Catherine, not to mention her helplessness to control even her own feelings. Still, he had given it his best shot, and there was one bright spot. Diana hadn't drawn the gun he knew she kept tucked beneath her sweater. For that, at least, he could be thankful.
Suppressing a sigh, he looked up to watch her leave. She stood
unmoving at the threshold of his chamber, heaving in great gulps of
air. Father suspected she might be crying, but all he could see was
her thick copper hair flowing wildly behind her. And then she was
gone, distancing herself from the pain of his words and the