Twenty Things: Catherine

Summary: Twenty things that Vincent knows about Catherine. Takes place in the same universe as “When Fall Comes to New England,” but you needn't have read that one to understand this.

A/N: This started as a writing exercise I borrowed from another fandom. Since I did Vincent's thoughts of Catherine, her "twenty things" she knows about him would naturally follow...so yes, there will be more. :-) My thanks to Carole for her eagle-eyed editing (and remodeling advice. :-)
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Vincent doesn't like lists, generally; life in the tunnels isn't conducive to them. You could make a list of all the things that need to be done, and by day's end, half wouldn't be because the pipes would leak or Eric and Kipper would be fighting or Samantha would need help with her homework. That's life, and he accepts it.

But as he watches his wife sleep in their bed, he finds that some lists, after all, are worth keeping. He opens his journal and begins to write.

1) Catherine's eyes are green. Not hazel, not blue, but green. An intense green that was his first analogy for what the grass in Central Park must look like in the daylight he could never see. They are a lighter grey-green when she's tired, and a darker green when she's angry or aroused. He sees her eyes as windows into the wider world, a world that she's given him by virtue of her love and faith. Her eyes have never lied to him, and neither does she.

2) Catherine is a more than decent cook, but her coffee is strong enough to wake the dead as William put it. And since William's experience with coffee came directly from his army days, Vincent figures he should know.

3) She giggles when she sleeps. The first time Vincent heard it, was in a hotel somewhere in Connecticut. He wanted to know what made her so happy, but figures he'd just enjoy the sound.

4) She was an English major at Radcliffe and nearly chose not to go to law school. But she hadn't any other ideas of what to do, so she applied to law school anyway.

5) When she'd moved below while their house was being renovated, he discovered a cache of letters. There are the letters he wrote to her, the invitations from the children to the concerts below, tokens of her gradual acceptance by his world. There are also letters she's never seen, hidden deep inside a box in a dresser drawer. The box is full of letters he wrote but did not send, but Catherine doesn't know of the box, and now that they are joined, he doubts she ever will. Every word he ever wrote or spoke to her is engraved on her heart---and his---regardless.

6) Vincent shares her dreams. Sometimes they are mere fragments, glimmers of thought and emotion that vanish as quickly as mist, but the longer ones, he remembers in his own sleep, even when they tend towards to the bizarre---walking through a market in Marrakesh, a city neither of them has visited? The ones that lodge in his heart are of the children waiting to be born. Because she dreams of them, Vincent knows they will be possible.

7) She has her morning rituals when she thinks he's fast asleep. He knew coffee was part of them—how not to, when her kiss tastes of coffee and milk and sunrise? But there's the other rituals too, the ones where she edges out of their bed so carefully, trying not to jostle the mattress, or where she pulls the faded quilts up over his neck to trap her warmth. It never works; he knows by smell that she's left him to start her day. But he'll not tell her that, either.

8) There is a rhythm to her steps at night that tells him all he needs to know about her state of mind; even without using their bond. Catherine wears heels, for some reason Vincent has never been able to fathom. Her heels click faster on the hardwood floors of their home when her day has been long and frustrating and when their tap is muted, Vincent knows she's just tired. But best of all is when her steps have no sound to them at all, for she is home and content.

9) He carries many pictures of her in his heart---the look in her eyes the first time they made love; the day of their joining, and all the times before and after. But the most recent one is of the day they finished painting their bedroom above. Her hair had been braided and tied back under a bandana, and there was paint on her nose and on her forehead, but she was still the most beautiful woman he'd ever seen and Catherine blushed when he told her so.

10) Vincent isn't used to wearing anything on his hands, and every so often, he'll find himself staring at the wedding band that she gave him---the band that had belonged to her grandfather---as it rests, shiny among his fur. He'll glance at the ring and think that the gift of possibilities is among the greatest of things she's given him. Catherine had known, long before he had, that there were no limits.

11) Her third Winterfest below is just weeks after their marriage and the first time Catherine mentions Vincent as her husband in conversation to a new helper, it takes him by surprise. They have long been committed to each other, but there is something so pleasing about being publicly claimed that he grieves momentarily that Catherine cannot do the same, above. He says as much to her under the cover of the music and dancing and is surprised by her answer. “But you have claimed me,” she says, waggling her left hand where Margaret's band rests. He wants to tell her that it's not the same, that she claims a husband who can never show his face in daylight, but she's made her peace with this complication to their divided lives and so, slowly, does he.

12) They make love frequently, and the curtained doorway had long since been replaced by a sturdier one of wood. Vincent doesn't mind this; in fact, its existence provokes an unusual feeling of pride. For so long, there'd been no thought in his mind that he'd ever need the privacy of a wooden door, but now that he---of all people---had a wife...yes, he was very well pleased with the door. When he finds out that the door was created by Catherine's instigation, aided and abetted by a very willing Kanin and Cullen, he is somehow not surprised. Catherine knows what doors mean to him now...after all, she'd opened most of them for him.

13) Living with Catherine below and her joy in her new home and their life together makes every day annoyances easier to bear. He finds himself not as irritated at Mouse when Mouse leaves his gizmo behind for the fifteenth—or was it twentieth?---time, the gizmo being a tool that was needed to fix one of the auxiliary entrance gates. Vincent doesn't get as annoyed at William's high-handedness or at Cullen's rough teasing on the very rare occasions when he oversleeps and is late for a job because he and Catherine had been...otherwise occupied....the night before. He takes the teasing in good humor and when Cullen oversleeps the next week---because he and William had partaken of too much of the home brew—he is able to tease in return.

14) The food fight starts after a days long slog of mud and leaking pipes and pumps that almost---but not quite—succeed in removing most of the water. Everyone helps and when the crisis is finally over, the community gathers in the commons for a late dinner of spaghetti and garlic bread. Many of them are too tired to eat, and a few are frankly snoring, but when a meatball sails through the air to land square in the middle of Vincent's forehead to roll down his nose, the giggles around the table overcome any sense of embarrassment he might have felt. He doesn't need to look around to know who threw the food; his wife, as he's told her before, is an awful liar and besides, she's grinning at him too obviously. Soon the food is flying through the air---and was that Father, of all people, lobbing spaghetti at Mouse? When it's all over and everyone is stained red with tomato sauce and laughing, Catherine tries to apologize for starting the fight, but Vincent won't hear of it. She's his life and his love and her laugh is worth everything.

15) He and Catherine decide to try and have a child late one fall night, as they lay curled under the covers in the huge bed in the cottage in Connecticut. Vincent knows this conversation has been coming; yearning for children as he does, that last part of their dream, he has sensed a similar feeling in Catherine for some months, but he doesn't mention it until she does. He wants children, but it is her body that will carry them and if she should choose, after all, that it's not worth the unknown risks, Vincent cannot find it in his heart to truly blame her. But when Catherine turns to him and asks him how he feels about a child of their own, nestled in the old oak cradle they'd found in the attic, he pulls her to him in answer and his joy and his fear are surpassed only by his love.

16) Spring comes and with it, the plague of cold and flu and sore throats. Everyone in the tunnels, it seems, is either getting over a cold or getting one...and this year, that list includes Vincent. He muddles through, doing his jobs despite his fever, disregarding Father's barked orders to “Stay in bed, or else!” And so, he ends up with a bad head cold that makes him feel as if his head weighs twenty pounds and joints that ache and a weariness that lands him in bed more hours than he feels he should. His sense of smell is pretty much gone because of the cold and so when Catherine begins to travel to and from their bathroom more often than normal, he doesn't think too much of it. But when his head clears and with it, his sense of smell...he knows. “When?” he asks and Catherine smiles at him. “January,” she says.

17) She comes to live below, full time, during the middle months of her pregnancy. There are complications and Peter and Father, in consultation, have agreed that modified bed rest is the best option, and Catherine agrees. Vincent feels a sense of guilt that her pregnancy with his child has so disrupted her life, but as Catherine tells him, smiling, they'll have more disruption when the baby is born, so this is just practice.

18) Vincent loves seeing Catherine pregnant. Her body changing, the curves she develops as the child grows within her, the feel of their child kicking him at night, are all reassurances of life, of the life he'd once thought could never be. He finds himself gathering her as close as he can at night and watching her sleep, guardian of their miracle. And in the day, as she sleeps or knits the latest in a series of blankets for their child, he works refinishing the old cradle. And as he works, he thinks of Paracelsus and his lies...not at all.

19) Catherine is vastly and hugely pregnant at their fifth Winterfest. She doesn't do a lot of dancing (aside from the one awkward waltz she'd danced with him because it was their tradition and she hadn't missed it yet,) but he finds her often sitting on the stairs gazing up at the tapestries, or smiling at him in awe and love and wonder as she had so many, many times before. That it is him, his world and their life together that makes her smile so, in spite of all the wonders she has seen, makes Vincent's heart feel full to overflowing.

20) It's nearly his own birthday when Catherine goes into labor. The suddenness of it is surprising; they had walked to the Chamber of the Falls for a picnic lunch, enjoying this last time together, just the two of them, when the front of Catherine's gown is soaked in a gush of fluid. The contractions come hard and fast after that—too fast, Vincent thinks, to get her back to the hospital chamber in time or to carry her himself. He bangs out a quick, frantic message on the pipes, calling for Father and Mary but by the time they arrive, it's all over and his daughter is damp and squawking in his arms. In the rush of labor and delivery, while contending with the echoes of Catherine's contractions, Vincent hasn't had a chance to notice who she looks like, but the tiny clawed hands, soft with birth, tell him all he needs to know. “Our miracle,” Catherine says, crying...and for once, Vincent has no words.

He lifts his head from his journal at the sound of his wife's smile. Purists will say that you can't hear a smile, but Vincent can. “Are you up writing again?” Catherine asks. “I don't know where you find the ideas...or the energy.”

Vincent closes his journal and comes to join her in bed, careful not to bump the cradle where their daughter sleeps. In this room are all his dreams, things he'd never believed in for himself....but things that Catherine had had the courage to believe for him. “What are you thinking?” she asks, sighing in comfort as his arm settles around her waist as it has so many, many times before.

He kisses the top of her hair, breathing in her scent. “How much I love you.”

17 comments:

Kemara said...

Gorgeous!

Krista said...

Thank you so much, Kemara! :)

Alexandra said...

What a lovely story! I need to read it again, later, when my fever goes down. There are so many small treasures hidden in it!

Krista said...

Alexandra,

Thanks so much for commenting---I'm sorry to hear you're not feeling well. I was sick through about 90% of WFOL...so, yeah, been there. :)

Glad you liked the story :)

Carole W said...

There are (at least!) two lines in this story that I would give anything to have written. They are perfect - truly - distillations of V and C's story - poems, pure and simple.

**Catherine knows what doors mean to him now...after all, she'd opened most of them for him.**

**And as he works, he thinks of Paracelsus and his lies...not at all.**

{{{sigh}}}

This is so personal! So intimate and glowing. It's a gem, really, polished and lit with internal fire. Brava!

Carole

Krista said...

Carole, thank you so much for your kind words *blush* :) I'm really thrilled you like it---this started out as a writing exercise I wasn't sure I would post, but it took on a life of its own...and here we are :)

Thank you so much for reading this...of all the gems I've found in writing, your friendship is one of the best :)

-Krista :)

Anonymous said...

Krista, may I say I wish I'd thought of the WHOLE idea... Twenty things V knows about Catherine...it's inspired!! And it's so soft and sweet and very Vincent. Very Vincent indeed! What a delightful piece! Thank you! Nancy

Joyce said...

Wow! This was great. I found the link to it on Carole's site so thank you to her for putting it there and to you for writing for such a great story! I am going back now to read the 20 things that Catherine knows about Vincent!

Joyce said...

Ooops I misread and see this is coming. So I will just continue reading some of your other writings!!

Krista said...

Hi Nancy,

Thank you so much..I wish *I'd* thought of the original idea too...but since I didn't, I'll just confess to borrowing a fantastic idea. :)

I'm presently working on the 20 things that Catherine knows...which is proving a bit more challenging, but just as much fun. I'm glad you enjoyed it :)

Hugs,

Krista :)

Krista said...

Hi Joyce,

Thank you so much for reading; I'm thrilled you liked it. I originally didn't think I'd post this because it was intended to be just a writing exercise, so I'm glad so many people have enjoyed it. There will be more coming; I'm working on Catherine's version now. :)

Thanks again,

Krista :)

RomanticOne said...

My favorite part is the description of her eyes...Her eyes have never lied to him and neither has she. I sighed through the whole thing but that first thing he knew about her set the tone for me. Thanks for sharing. Hope everybody that's been sick is better now.

Krista said...

Hi R1!

I'm so glad you like it--thanks for reading. :)

We're all (finally) feeling better around here...it's been an unpleasant winter as far as colds go, but we're getting through it. :)

Thanks again for reading :)

RomanticOne said...

Spring is coming - I know it is! Which means we need a new story from an awesome story teller. (Hint, hint) :)

Krista said...

Heh. Would you believe I'm almost done with another one? :)

-Krista :)

SandyX said...

"He'll glance at the ring and think that the gift of possibilities is among the greatest of things she's given him." [sigh]

I like the "20 Things" format. "Neat," as Mouse would say.

Hugs,
Sandy

Krista said...

Awwww, Sandy, thank you. :) I'm glad you liked it :)

-Krista :)

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