Providence: Chapter 1 Life in Its Jewel Boxes (PG)

Chapter 1: Life in Its Jewel Boxes [1]

Catherine glanced at Joe warily over a pile of files. It was a Monday and three weeks after returning from Connecticut, she was still struggling to put some order to the cases that had accumulated in her absence. As he came closer, she saw that he only had one rubber band in his hand, not two, so it couldn't be that serious. One rubber band meant mischief, whereas two....Two rubber bands to rule them all, she thought, smothering a grin.

She looked up as he hitched a hip on the one bare corner of her desk. “Slacking off again, Radcliffe?” Joe asked, rotating the rubber band over and over in his hands.

Catherine glanced at her desk, at the files covering the surface, the law book teetering on one edge, the legal pad serving as a coaster for a cup of coffee long gone cold, and leaned back in her chair. The game is afoot, she thought. “Whatever gave you that idea?” she asked dryly.

“Oh, just the fact that you were off on vacation three weeks ago and you're taking a day off tomorrow,” Joe said, perhaps a little too casually.

“I'm taking a day off tomorrow because the Miller case got continued, the Hernandez case plead out and Keller failed to appear for her sentencing so there's an arrest warrant out for her now. And I was going to the Tombs to take Denault's statement but he's been placed in quarantine due to possible tuberculosis. So...my day cleared up. Unless you have something else for me?” she asked with a sinking heart. She had that appointment tomorrow and she'd promised Vincent....

“Nah, I'm just giving you hard time, Radcliffe,” Joe said. “I don't know how you did it, but this has been a slow week. Pretty much everything has cleared up or plead or been continued. Must be some kind of magic you've got going.”

She smiled, thinking of the man who waited for her far beneath the city streets, the man she would marry in just a few weeks. “Oh, it's magic, all right,” she agreed. Catherine picked up a thick file and made a “shoo” motion. “Get off my desk or I might be tempted to give this one back to you,” she said and Joe jumped off her desk, laughing.

***

By the time Catherine left the office, it was a perfectly respectable 6pm. Since she'd left investigations and joined the trial division, she'd been able to leave work more or less at a decent hour unless there was a trial she needed to prepare for. And no more skulking on dark city streets, she thought, hailing a cab and keeping one ear on the driver's monologue, nodding in all the right places, as she mentally calculated how long it would take her to arrive home. She smiled a little, inwardly. Home was where Vincent was; her apartment, just a mailing address now.

Several potholes and a few traffic snarls later, Catherine arrived back at her apartment. She threw her keys in the basket near the door, and rushed head-long into her bedroom to change into something more practical for walking in the tunnels. It was just as she was hanging her silk blouse back on its hanger that she heard the gentle tap on her patio door.

Vincent.

She pulled a sweatshirt on, feeling the draft of winter's bite curling under the balcony doors. Vincent was, as usual, dressed for the weather in his heavy cloak and sweater and cords. “I missed you,” Catherine said, stepping onto the balcony and into his arms.

“I know,” he whispered against her hair. “I felt it. I missed you too.”

“I still have tomorrow off,” she murmured against the warm solidness of him. “Are you ready for this?”

“For a place of our own?” Vincent asked. “I never thought I'd be planning a wedding, much less living anywhere with a wife.” She saw his quick wry smile in the shadow of the hood, the fangs briefly visible. “In other words, I'm about as ready as I'll ever be. What about you?”

She glanced around the curve of his arm to the interior of her apartment. “I've done some of my best living here,” Catherine replied, “but it's time. I want a space I can share with you and not worry about whether you'll fall off the roof in an ice storm or be seen by another crackpot with a telescope. And we need a space that's purely ours.”

“We do,” he agreed. “I learned that much in Connecticut.”

Catherine remembered the sight of him, naked under the sun of an Indian summer, the freckles now fading in the gloom of winter. But she remembered them. She would always remember them. “Surely that's not all you learned?” she asked, grinning.

“No, it's not,” Vincent replied, and kissed her.

***

“I want to enlarge my chamber for us as well,” Vincent said, as they ambled towards the hub.

“How would you do that?” Catherine asked, curious.

“The old-fashioned way, normally,” Vincent replied, “with a hammer and chisel. It would take a work crew a few months to do it, if they could be spared. But there's a quicker way.”

“There is?”

“Mmm-hmm,” he said. “It was Mouse's idea, actually.”

“Mouse?” Catherine smiled. “Does it involve plastic explosive and some gizmos?”

“It does, actually,” he replied, taking her hand as they walked down the corridor. “He didn't use everything you gave him that last time, and when I broached the subject of enlarging my chamber for our use, it was all I could do to dissuade him from starting right then and there.”

Catherine laughed, picturing it. “How did you dissuade him?”

“I bribed him,” Vincent said, grinning that full happy grin she loved to see. “I told him if he waited until Kanin and Cullen and I could make some proper drawings of where to begin, that he could be the one to throw the switch.”

“And does Father know?” Catherine asked.

Vincent nodded. “He'd have to, since our chambers are so close. But I was perhaps a little...vague on the extent of Mouse's involvement.”

“I'm sure Father's blood pressure will thank you later,” Catherine said, chuckling. “So what alterations are you planning to your chamber?”

He gazed across at her. “Our chamber,” Vincent said, smiling. “There's a couple of unused storage rooms that link together just beyond it; if the wall was removed, they could be linked to our chamber and provide another bedroom and...another space.”

She smiled back at him, knowing what he wasn't saying, the possible purpose of that other room. That dream, once so impossible, flitted between them like the faint flutter of bird's wings. “That sounds lovely,” Catherine said. “A place of our own, here. You and I. It hardly seems possible.”

“I know,” Vincent replied. “I never thought any of this would be in my future.”

Catherine thought of all the possible futures she might have known, married to someone else: the abused wife of Stephen Bass, Tom Gunther's arm candy, Elliott Burch's socialite wife, some politician's vapid consort, and smiled. “I never pictured this either, not until I met you.”

***

Later, dinner in the commons reminded Catherine of how much else had changed in their lives. Since they'd come back from Connecticut three weeks earlier and announcing that they were going to be married, Catherine had found herself folded into the tunnel community more than ever before. People she had never really met went out of their way to talk to her, to congratulate them both. Dark-eyed Marisol, the tunnel weaver, had been one of the first. “So will you be living down here or will you commute?” Marisol asked now, her dish of William's casserole steaming in the chill air of the dining chamber.

Catherine smiled, remembering Vincent's account of Marisol and her husband Miguel just a few weeks before. “They really don't need a lawyer down here, so I think I'll probably commute, for now.”

Marisol smiled back. “It is possible to do that,” she said, her words tinged with a faint Spanish accent, “don't let anyone tell you differently. Miguel..he's mildly claustrophobic. He can handle being down here a few hours at a time, or when he has time off, but if he had to be down here all the time...no. It would be too hard on him, on us. Plus, he loves driving a bus. How could I take that away from him?”

That certainly sounded familiar. “I understand,” she replied, filling her glass with iced tea from a ceramic carafe on the table. “So, how did you and Miguel meet?”

“I'd gone above to deliver a series of small tapestries to our co-op. Miguel was driving the bus that day and he asked me for my telephone number. I thought he was crazy at first, but...he grew on me. I couldn't give him a phone number, of course,” Marisol said, chuckling. “But I agreed to meet him at a coffee shop near his apartment, and...the rest is history. He's a good man---the kind I'd forgotten could be in the world.” She glanced over at Vincent, coming towards them with his own plate. “But you know how that is.”

“I do,” Catherine said, liking her.

“So what do you think they're saying?” a voice Catherine recognized as Miguel's said. Miguel was not a large man, probably only a bit taller than his wife, but he had a booming voice all out of proportion to his size.

“Probably telling tales out of school,” Vincent said dryly, sitting down next to Catherine, his hand brushing hers as he settled his dishes on the wood table.

Catherine grinned. “Well, we were talking about you both. You can always leave so we can gossip about you some more.”

“Not likely,” Miguel said, smiling around a mouthful of casserole, blue eyes dancing. “I'm hungry. You'll just have to gossip in front of us.”

“Uh-huh,” Marisol said, elbowing her husband and laughing. “So, Catherine, how about those Yankees?”

That set off another spate of chuckling and Miguel looked at Vincent as if to say Women. What can you do? Pretty soon, they were joined by Lena and Warren and Kanin and Olivia and the table was full, filled with conversations and the warm sense of family. Vincent's thigh brushed hers under the table and Catherine thought again how utterly ordinary this all was. Dinner with friends, with family now. The questions from Olivia and Lena about the upcoming wedding crossed over with Warren and Kanin's discussion about the necessary supplies they'd need to patch a pipe that was so far resisting all their efforts to fix it.

It was...beyond ordinary. It was life.

***

Later that night, Catherine watched as Vincent dropped the tapestry curtain---one of Marisol’s? she wondered now---and blew out all but one of the lights. Candlelight turned his hair to copper and she remembered how it---and he---had seemed to glow in the light of the autumn Connecticut sun. He half turned, as if sensing her regard, and smiled. “I can’t get used to seeing you there,” he said, ducking his head in his endearing way.

She placed her shawl over the back of an armchair and smiled back at him as she climbed into bed. “I can’t quite get used to being here either.”

Vincent climbed into bed next to her with a grace that always surprised her, considering how large he was. The heat of his body was like sleeping next to a space heater, welcome in the perpetual chill of the tunnels. He pulled her close and Catherine rested her head on his chest, hearing the slow familiar thump of his heartbeat, the fur soft beneath her cheek. “What are you thinking?” she asked, feeling his hand stroke her hair.

“I am thinking,” Vincent said slowly, “that we are building a life together. And that we will have many nights like this. It is...more than I had ever imagined.”

“Mmm...hmmm,” Catherine replied, smiling against his chest. “Sounds almost ordinary. Normal.”

He chuckled, a deep raspy sound. “Two words I never thought I'd hear in the same sentence in reference to us. It's...nice.”

“It is,” Catherine agreed, her chuckle joining his for no other reason than the joy of being together. Of being whole and complete.

“When are we meeting Dara tomorrow?” Vincent asked, running a calloused hand down the curve of her hip.

Catherine rolled to her back, stretching her arms above her head and saw his eyes darken. “Not early,” she said.

“Good,” he replied, and blew out the candle.



Click here for Chapter Two....

___

[1] “Enigmas,” by Pablo Neruda

4 comments:

Carole W said...

First - Love, love the bluebird stained glass. What an inspiration! To have that in my house with the morning sun through it! I want.

Second - Could you slow down your muse? She's kicking up so much dust running free out there in front that mine can't see or breathe very well. ;-)

Third - the memory of freckles. Sigh.

You've begun another layered journey - Life - theirs, and how sweet it will be.

And a series! Love that.

Carole

Krista said...

Hi Carole!

The stained glass--it's funny. Several months ago, I'd done a search through Google Images looking for a stained glass with two bluebirds on it (I'd had the image in my head but I can't draw, so....;-) And nothing quite looked... right. Just a couple of days ago, as I was setting this page up, I did the same search and found that window. And it's just so... them

LOL, I've tried reminding my muse that since she just dragged me through writing a 107 page story recently, she's entitled to some time off, but she doesn't agree. So, here we are again ;-)I think she's a tad hyperactive but...what do you do, eh? :)

Mmmm....yes. Freckles :)

Thank you, Carole, for reading this--I keep saying it but your support and friendship has meant more in the writing of these stories than I can say. :)

Linn said...

Great chapter Krista, loved the part about V's freckles, can really picture that. Also love the easy way in which they talk to each other, so close and personal *sigh*...

Krista said...

Hi Linn!

It's so nice to see you here---I'm happy you're enjoying it so far. Mmm...Freckly Vincent is a vision, no doubt about it ;-)

Thanks for reading! :)

-Krista

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