Providence: Chapter 11: In the Dew of Little Things (PG)

Chapter 11: In the Dew of Little Things [11]

They both turned at the sound of Devin's voice and Catherine smothered a grin as Devin became the recipient of one of Vincent's rib-cracking hugs. Devin obviously still thought of Vincent as his kid brother, not the massive man he'd become. Charles stood just behind Devin---not hiding, she sensed, not anymore, but simply not entirely comfortable being out in front. “Charles, welcome. It's so good to see you,” she said to him and was rewarded by one of Charles' smiles.

“Thank you,” Charles said in his deliberate way. She noticed his speech was much improved from the last time she'd spoken to him—Devin's work, perhaps? “It's good to be here.”

The small group ambled towards the hub, conversations crossing over each other as the messages rang out on the pipes: Devin's home! Devin and Charles are back! “I'd forgotten about that,” Devin said, gesturing to the clanking of sound. “News travels fast.”

“You and Charles passed by two sentries and one of the outposts on your way here...plus, Renata sent down a message,” Vincent replied as they walked. “You've been missed.”

“By the old man?” Devin asked.

Vincent nodded, smiling. “By everyone.”

As they neared the hub, Catherine was startled by a tug on her arm. It was Marisol. “Catherine, Mary says she's ready if you are.”

Vincent and Devin and Charles tilted their heads in identical quizzical fashion and Catherine chuckled. “For the wedding and I'm not going to tell you, because it's a surprise. Devin and Charles, it's good to see you---I'll catch up with you all later.”

***

Catherine stepped inside Mary’s chamber. It was much less cluttered than Vincent’s but still, it bore the mark of its owner. A quilt in bright colors decorated the brass bed, various framed prints lined the walls and an old treadle sewing machine rested against one wall, along with baskets of yarn with half-finished blankets resting on top of them, and other baskets that were full of clothes that needed mending or fabrics ready to be turned or remade into something else. Despite the rock walls, which could have seemed harsh and unfriendly, the entire effect was of a cozy, welcoming space---overwhelmingly feminine, in contrast to Vincent’s cheerful, masculine clutter.

Marisol, following behind Catherine, dropped the lace privacy curtain. Catherine gazed down at the dress on the bed. “Were you able to alter it?” she asked, gazing down at her mother’s wedding dress.

“Oh, yes,” Mary replied, smiling. “You and your mother must have been much the same size; Marisol and I didn’t have to do a whole lot.”

“She was taller,” Catherine said, remembering the wedding photo. “I remember when my Aunt Jane came to visit; Aunt Jane towered over my dad and my mom wasn’t that much shorter.”

“We noticed,” Marisol replied, winking. “It just means the dress will be longer on you. But we took in the sleeve length and some of the darting. It should fit you just fine now.”

Catherine darted a look at the lace curtain. “Don’t worry,” Marisol said. “A dropped curtain is as good as a solid door here---even if everyone and their mother were to see you in that dress, they’ll pretend they didn’t.”

“I have a lot to learn about living here,” Catherine replied.

“No,” Marisol said, smiling, “you don’t. The most important things, you already know.”

Mary lifted the dress with careful, expert hands. “Try it on, dear.”

***

The informal welcome dinner for Devin and Charles had metamorphosed, by late evening, into the sort of get-together Vincent had seen often in the tunnels---family and friends gathering, sharing stories and telling jokes. Devin had a dozen stories to tell, mesmerizing the children and not a few of the adults and leaving Vincent shaking his head fondly, remembering the boy who had wanted to go and do and be.

He shook his head as William offered another bottle of his best home brewed ale; he and Catherine were sharing one and they hadn't yet finished it. Devin opened his and continued his story of a ballet dancer he'd known in Paris. Vincent felt Catherine's hand tighten on his own. She knew precisely whose memory had flitted across his mind just then---Lisa, now working with a fledgling ballet company in Buenos Aires. Vincent smiled at Catherine in reassurance and love, and gathered her closer.

Father, to everyone's surprise, chimed in with an anecdote about a Rockette he'd treated for a sprained ankle as a resident and ended up dating. “Just when I'd thought I'd heard all of Father's stories,” Vincent murmured under the laughter. “It seems he can still find ways to surprise me.”

“I can't quite picture it,” Catherine said, chuckling herself.

“Nor can I,” Vincent replied. “But at the same time...I believe it's possible.” His ruminations of trying to picture---not Father, but Jacob Wells, that much younger man---doing something so utterly normal were interrupted by Devin saying, a touch too loudly, “And then there was that dancer that Vincent liked when we were kids---what was her name?”

It was as if an ice pick had settled in his stomach. Vincent was aware of Catherine's eyes on him as he spoke. “Lisa. Her name was Lisa.”

Devin seemingly hadn't noticed his reaction. “Lisa, that's right. You were always following her around and you used to get so mad when she didn't want to play with you. Whatever happened to her?” His tone was light, teasing, the voice of an older, wiser brother.

Memories of Lisa's playing, the blood running over her shoulder from the wounds he'd inflicted, the madness that had nearly destroyed him, rose hot and violent before his mind's eye again. Catherine's love had shown him otherwise, shown him that desire was natural and nothing to be ashamed of, that Lisa's wounding had been only an accident between two inexperienced teenagers, but the memories of the madness that followed had lost none of their power to sting.

Into the sudden silence, Father spoke. “She...left the tunnels some years ago.”

Vincent stood, unable to meet Father's eyes, or Mary's, or Pascal's, or Elijah's....all of them good people who had seen what he'd become in that madness. “Excuse me. It's late and I must go.” Meeting only Catherine's concerned gaze, he left the chamber.

***

“What was that all about?” Devin asked, too loudly.

“Vincent was right. It's late,” Father said, ignoring the question. “I believe it's time we all went to bed.” The party began to disperse, albeit reluctantly. Catherine rose. “I need to go check on Vincent.”

“Why?” Devin asked. “Did I say something wrong?”

Devin had seen Catherine in a good many moods in his short acquaintance of her---happy, in love, passionate, fierce. But he had never before seen the cold fury in her eyes that turned the green to pale ice. “When you sober up, Wells...” Her voice trailed off; she stared at him as she left.

Devin leaned forward, his head in his hands. “I did say something wrong, didn't I?”

Father nodded. “It's not my story to tell, Devin. But yes. I'm afraid you couldn't have said something worse.”

Grateful that Charles, at least, had already gone to bed, Devin trudged down the corridor and was startled to hear Catherine's voice. “But, Vincent,” she was saying, “you don't---”

“But I do,” Vincent replied, not loudly but firmly.

They were inside one of the guest chambers, Devin realized, the one near to his own. They weren't talking loudly but as he suddenly remembered, even small sounds in the tunnels were sometimes amplified. Gathering up his courage, Devin stuck his head into the room. “Look, Vincent---whatever I said back there, I'm sorry.”

Catherine was standing close to Vincent and Devin had the thought---which was absurd, considering her size---that she was protecting him. But then, this was the same woman who'd neatly flipped him over her shoulder only the year before, so maybe it wasn't so ridiculous after all. He watched as Vincent took Catherine's hand. “I'll be back soon.”

She tilted her head. “You're sure?”

Vincent nodded. “I am.” Releasing Catherine's hand, he took lighted candle from the room, and Vincent gestured towards his own chamber. “It's dusty in there now and not much to look at, but it'll be quiet.”

They entered the chamber and Vincent lit one of the large remaining candles, and turned to drop the thick tapestry behind them. Devin looked around the bare chamber, seeing the work Vincent and the others had done on the place. “Wow, Fuzz, this looks a lot larger now.”

“Well, it was too small for the two of us,” Vincent replied, sitting cross-legged on the lone rug. “Catherine hasn't seen it since it was enlarged; I hope she likes it.”

Devin sat slowly down on the floor. “I'm sure she will.” He took a deep breath, and forced himself to meet Vincent's eyes. “I didn't mean to...put my foot in it back there.”

Vincent didn't answer immediately, lost in his own thoughts, and Devin was finding it difficult to figure out his mood. Finally, Vincent said, “Devin, has Father told you anything of my illness last year?”

Devin nodded. “Sure. I wished he'd told me while it was happening, so I could have been here. I gather it was pretty bad.”

“It was,” Vincent said, voice so low that Devin had to strain to hear him. “I died, Devin.”

Devin shivered. “The old man never mentioned that part.”

“I don't think many people know, besides Catherine and Father and Peter and me. It's not...something I wanted told.”

“I understand,” Devin said, “but what does this have to do with Lisa?”

“After you...left, Lisa and I became closer. I used to watch her in the Great Hall as she practiced her dancing and...she was so beautiful. One night when I was fifteen, she asked me to watch her dance.” Vincent's voice, which was never loud unless he was angry or afraid, became softer. “I hurt her, Devin. I pulled her to me and I must have startled her---or Father did, I still don't know---and I scratched her shoulder when she tried to pull away.”

Devin rolled his eyes. “The old man. It figures that he'd follow you. But it was just an accident, Fuzz. What happened next?”

“I know it was an accident now,” Vincent replied. “But it took me many years---and Catherine’s understanding---to realize that. But then...it seemed like I'd hurt someone else just like I'd hurt you. And I couldn't bear it.” Vincent glanced down at the floor, at his tightly folded hands, before he looked back at his brother. “I blamed myself, blamed the animal side of me that kept injuring the people I loved.”

Devin didn't know what to say to that. Absently, he rubbed his own scars and remembered the sting of his wounds and his own shock that his little brother could move that fast. “Why did she leave? A few scratches hardly seems reason to move Above.”

“Lisa had great talent as a dancer. She had been planning to go Above eventually. I believe Father...hastened her decision.”

“You mean he tossed her out,” Devin said, blunt.

Vincent nodded. “In essence, yes.” The blue eyes stared into Devin’s own. “It is no cliché to say that guilt can destroy. It nearly destroyed me. I ran a high fever for days, then chills…had deliriums and hallucinations. I don't remember much of the later part of the illness but one morning, I awoke to find Father weeping. I'd died, he managed to tell me.”

Guilt—Devin's own, this time---churned in his stomach. “If only I'd stuck around, Fuzz. Maybe you wouldn't have felt so...responsible.”

“No, Devin,” Vincent said, gently. “You had to follow your own path. I wouldn't have wanted you to see me like that.”

Devin rubbed his hands together---the air was chill in the chamber. “So what happened then?”

“I recovered,” his brother replied, “but slowly. Father will tell you I was greatly changed afterward. Certainly, I didn't allow myself to become interested in anyone else---”

“Until Chandler?” Devin asked.

Vincent nodded. “Yes. I never expected to find someone like her.”

Devin saw what his innocent remarks had done---brought up a painful, difficult part of Vincent's life. I’ve been away so long, I don’t know where the landmines are anymore. “And your…sickness…last year, was like that one you had before?”

“Yes, but much worse.”

Devin ran a hand through his hair. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know. I’d never have brought it up if I’d known you and Lisa were so close.”

“We aren't,” Vincent replied. “Lisa returned to us briefly last year---it was not a pleasant time for either Catherine or myself. I hadn't told her about Lisa.”

“Ohhhh,” Devin said. “Not a smart move, Fuzz. No wonder she's angry.”

Vincent acknowledged this with a tilt of his head. “Catherine was angry and disappointed that I'd hid this from her. And she was right to feel that way. But that's not why she's angry now. We nearly lost everything last year and she's...rather protective of me.”

“I noticed,” Devin replied dryly. “Well, I'll tell you both I'm sorry. I should have thought first before opening my mouth.”

“You couldn't have known,” Vincent said. “It was...unfortunate choice of words, but it was only that.”

“Yeah, well,” Devin replied, thinking that he'd better drink some water and take some aspirin just in case, “I think William's ale was stronger than it looked. I need to go to bed, and I just hope Charles hasn't taken the bottom bunk.”

Vincent grinned, the quick easy smile Devin remembered from their boyhood. “You always did like the bottom bunk.”

“That's right,” Devin said. “Because you were always trying to fly from the top one.” He craned his neck and looked up at Vincent as they stood. “Jeez, Fuzz, when did you get so tall? You were such a shrimp when I left.”

Vincent gazed down at him. “When did you get so short?”

Laughing, they stood and left the chamber.

***

Catherine awoke almost instantly as Vincent entered the chamber. “Everything all right?” she asked, her voice dark with sleep.

“Yes,” he said, undressing by the light of the single oil lamp she’d left burning. She watched as the low light flickered over the long muscles of his back as he hung his sweater inside the armoire. “Catherine, Devin didn’t know what…happened with Lisa. He had been gone for almost four years when I became ill.”

“Oh,” she said, embarrassed. “I thought---“

He smiled at her as he took his jeans off. “I know. And I can understand why you thought that. It was a poor choice of words on his part, but it was just an innocent mistake.”

“But he knows now?” Catherine asked as he blew out the light and settled next to her.

“He does,” Vincent replied, gathering her close. “Devin’s been away for so long. It must be difficult for him to pick up the threads of his life here. There is much that has changed, much that he doesn’t know.”

She reached up to gently rub the area between his eyebrows, something she knew he found soothing. “Do you think he’ll visit more, now that he lives closer?”

“Perhaps,” Vincent replied, closing his eyes. “Rest now. This will all keep until morning.”

***

Morning found Catherine in the commons with Marisol and Devin; Charles had gone to the library to read and Vincent had gone with Cullen to help him with the last stages of Valerie’s chamber. The chamber was filled with people either finishing their breakfast or beginning it, the conversation ebbing and flowing. “Look, Devin, I---“ Catherine began, at the same time Devin began to speak. “I goofed,” Devin said.

Catherine poured a cup of coffee and handed the carafe to Devin. “Vincent told me last night. I shouldn’t have assumed---“

Devin chuckled. “Let me apologize first, will you? I’m sorry---I didn’t mean to bring that whole incident up. Last time I saw Lisa, she was…twelve or thirteen, something like that. And she was shorter than Vincent, which was saying something then.”

Catherine had a hard time picturing that, though she knew Vincent must have been smaller at some point. “Well, I’m sorry too, for jumping to conclusions. It’s just---“

“You love him and you want to protect him. He has that effect on people,” Devin replied, running a hand through his dark hair. His eyes were distant. “Even when Vincent annoyed the hell out of me—and he did, he was such a pest when he little, always wanting to tag along with the big kids---I still fought anyone who called him names. Mitch and I went around and around a lot of times.”

“I can imagine,” Catherine said, remembering Mitch as she had known him.

“I see you’ve met him too,” Devin said, his expression darkening. “Mitch was always trouble for someone.”

“Hi, Catherine,” Marisol said, sitting down with her tray of food. “I don’t believe we’ve met,” she said to Devin.

“Probably not,” Devin agreed, smiling. “I’m Vincent’s brother.”

Marisol raised one eyebrow in amusement. “That’s some family resemblance you’ve got there. I’ve heard about you, though. You’re the one with all the stories.”

“She’s figured you out,” Catherine said, chuckling into her coffee.

“Hush, you,” Devin said. “You’ll ruin my reputation.”

“For being a good fraud?” Catherine asked, smiling.

“I sense a story,” Marisol said, looking back and forth between the two of them.

Devin jerked his thumb in Catherine’s direction. “I worked with her for a couple of weeks.”

“But you’re not an attorney, are you?” Marisol asked.

Catherine shook her head, chuckling. “Not even close. But he runs a good con.”

“So does she,” Devin said, grinning like the urban pirate she'd long suspected him to be. He raised his mug of coffee in salute. “Pot, meet kettle.”

***

“Vincent,” Cullen said. “Vincent?”

“I'm sorry,” Vincent said, glancing at the chisel, at the seam he was supposed to have finished carving by now. “My mind is elsewhere.” And so it had been, though precisely where his mind had gone---the vision of Catherine, rising from the waters of the bathing pool early this morning, beads of soap glistening on her breasts like the palest jewels---he was not inclined to share.

Cullen's rakish grin surfaced. “I'm sure,” he said. “Why don't you give me those tools before you really hurt yourself?”

“But I said I would help,” Vincent protested.

“And so you will be, by getting out of here while you can still think straight.” Cullen took the tools from Vincent's unprotesting hands. “Scram, man. I was there once, I know.”

Vincent raised his eyebrows. “There?”

“You know. There.” Cullen's head bobbed. “Don't make me explain this, Vincent. Just...go.” He ran a hand through his thinning hair. “Besides, I need to see Valerie.”

“You do?” Vincent asked, smiling.

“Don't you start,” Cullen said, but there was no sting in the words. “She liked the daisies. Liked them a lot.”

“I'm sure,” Vincent said dryly.

Cullen put the tools in the community toolbox. “Tell ya what, let's both take a break. You go...talk to Catherine and I'll see how Valerie is. What we're doing now is just the final finishing and it can wait until tomorrow.”

“If you're sure,” Vincent replied.

He was startled when Cullen touched him on the arm. “I am. Now go. I'll finish up here.”

***

Vincent found Catherine not in the library or in their temporary chamber or in the commons but at the Chamber of the Falls. That surprised him; he had never known her to make the journey by herself, had never even known she knew the way. How well she knows our world, Vincent thought with a small burst of pride.

It was warmer in the Chamber of the Falls; by some trick of the temperature or the current, it was always warmer there—regardless of the season---than anywhere else save the deepest portions of Pascal's pipe chamber. Catherine had taken off her sweatshirt, leaving her wearing only a thin t-shirt and jeans. She was reading a book, one of Neruda's sonnets, and she smiled as she heard his step. “I thought you were with Cullen,” Catherine said, placing a bookmark where she was reading.

I was,” Vincent said. “He...sent me to you. Said I was distracted.”

She chuckled, a low throaty laugh. “Distracted? You?”

He would not make love to her here, where anyone and everyone could come by, but oh, he was tempted. “Yes,” Vincent managed. “I was distracted.”

Her eyes were the green of emeralds, and they were hungry. Wanting him, Vincent noticed with a small thrill of renewed wonder. Catherine stood, gathered up her sweatshirt and book. She was close enough to him now that he could feel the heat from her body. The difference in their heights was telling; she stood on tiptoe to nuzzle his neck. “Let's go....distract each other, shall we?”

Vincent breathed in the scent of her hair, the warmth of her. “I thought you'd never ask.”


Click here for Chapter 12....

_______

[11] “On Friendship,” from The Prophet, by Khalil Gibran

8 comments:

Carole W said...

I really enjoyed the interaction between V and Devin. You do a great job connecting them at heart and yet showing the effect of time and distance on their relationship. It's an interesting What If - had Devin never left, would V have had someone - not Father! - to talk things over with.

You lay the foundation for some further stories here, I can feel it!

The interaction between Cullen and V was interesting. The underlying story of Cullen's growth is a mirror of V and C's in a way. Perhaps more of what Father described - that V and C's love brings out the best in everyone else. A very good scene.

Great progress of story - can't wait for what comes next!

C

Krista said...

Hi Carole! :)

I've often wondered what Vincent's life would have been like if Anna had lived, if Devin had stayed. It seems like once Devin left, Vincent truly lost someone who would advocate for his right to be just like everyone else, to have dreams and believe that they could come true. Father, too damaged by his years Above, simply couldn't.

Heh..Cullen is...interesting. He's a hard guy to know well, but I think Valerie is making a good attempt at it ;-)

Again, thank you so much for reading this in all its incarnations and commenting. :)

-Krista :)

RomanticOne said...

I loved this chapter! It had it all - a walk down memory lane with little side trips dedicated to "what if" that wound up back on the path to an exciting future. Even so, the best is yet to come...the wedding!

Anonymous said...

This just keeps getting better and better all the time!
Loved the banter between Devin and Catherine, such fun and had me laughing. Krista the words you write make the characters come alive. I can see them so clearly! You are amazing. This may well be my most favorite story of all time, am absolutely thrilled.

Krista said...

Hi R1!

Oh, thank you---I'm so happy you enjoyed it. I've often wished we would have seen more of Devin; from the few times we saw Catherine and Devin interact, they really did have a whole brother-sister teasing thing going on. It was a lot of fun to write them together again. ;)

Yup, the wedding is the next chapter---thanks for sticking around through the first eleven chapters to read it. ;)

-Krista :)

Krista said...

Hi Anon!

Thank you so much for your kind words---I'm very happy you like the chapter and the story. :O)))) I've had an amazing amount of fun writing this...it's such a blessing to know other people enjoy it as well.

Thank you again,

Krista :)

NYC Utopia said...

Lovely! Thank you!
I must tell you, even though you've seen no comments of mine in a long time, I've been following and enjoying this story as usual (only most of the time via my RSS reader...on my phone)
C.

Krista said...

Hi Claire!

Well, thank you---no matter how you're reading it, I'm just thrilled that you are.

Thank you so much for reading and commenting :)

-Krista

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