Catherine and Vincent’s Unforgettable Christmas – Holidays in the Mountains

by Paulette Vest

 

 

Catherine and Vincent have known each other for over two years now, and yet Vincent remains quite shy and reticent to enter Catherine's apartment.

Since they met, each thinks about the other all the time. They don't necessarily need to listen to great music or read beautiful poems in order to feel good; being together is enough. Catherine works very hard every day, and comes home late in the evenings, but she never misses an opportunity to be with Vincent.

 

Christmas will be here soon. This year, Catherine and Vincent have decided to make it an unforgettable moment. This Christmas won't be like other Christmases: Catherine's father is going to Florida, most of her friends are off to Europe to ski. As a result, Catherine with be on her own with Vincent. Vincent has been dreaming of this moment for a long time: the moment when they will truly be alone, the moment he will share with the woman that he loves and will love deeply for the rest of his life.

 

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Our lovebirds don't have much time left to decide where they will spend the holidays. Meanwhile, the Tunnel folk are preparing for their Christmas celebration. They discuss and choose decorations for the home chambers and other tunnel sites. Lately, Catherine's office workload has been a tad lighter; she takes the opportunity to leave work earlier than is usual for her, in order to spend time with the man she loves; this does not always please Joe Maxwell.

Today is a Tuesday, and Catherine has completed her tasks; she firmly counts on leaving early; but as usual, Joe doesn't take it well. Joe Maxwell is a particular boss, very demanding where work is concerned; nothing gets past him. "Cathy, you can't leave now! The Talbot file isn't wrapped up yet. Moreno was very clear about this: he wants this case closed a.s.a.p."  Cathy, undeterred, nods, but after a brief moment of silence, she says: "I know, Joe, but I really need some rest. We'll see this tomorrow." Joe isn't always the most tolerant person in this context, but he relents and answers with a smile: "all right, Catherine, but please don't forget about it. This file is extremely important and Maxwell is expecting results. Do. Not. Be. Late tomorrow!"

 

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Without waiting long enough for Joe to change his mind, she replies on her way out: "don't worry, I'll be there." She leaves the office without any further delay. Since she wishes to take a good bath, but doesn't feel like driving, she takes a cab home.

After her much-desired bath, she hurries out onto her balcony, where Vincent is already eagerly waiting.  As usual, Catherine is overjoyed to see him. She loves him so much. Vincent is all her life! She lives only for him. Nothing counts more in her eyes than the love of her life. Vincent himself is very happy, and tenderly embraces Catherine.

They eventually head towards the tunnels, after Catherine's decision to extend this wonderful evening and spend the whole night Below. They take the scenic route.
The weather has been mild for this time of year, and after hours of conversation it is already 6 a.m. when Catherine and Vincent reach the Tunnel world! Everyone Below is still asleep.
Surprised to see no sign of Catherine taking her leave from him, Vincent asks her: "aren't you walking back Above?" Catherine doesn't immediately reply, wondering how this will look in Vincent's eyes and whether she made the right decision. At last she says: "no, my angel, I am staying with you. We are going to decide where to spend the best Christmas vacation: unforgettable holidays, for just you and me.

Vincent gazes at her with a beautiful smile. He his happy, his dream is about to come true at last. He takes Cathy into his arms and hugs her tightly. She understands then that he shares the exact same desire.

Happy as he is, Vincent still wants to talk to Father about it. "Catherine, I cannot go without letting the others know; they would worry about me." Catherine, who has every intention of seeing this project come to fruition, does her best to convince him: "Vincent, last time we tried to travel together, Father didn't approve our decision and eventually nothing worked out. This year, I'll organize everything properly, and you'll see, we'll spend a marvelous vacation."

Vincent must bow to such obstination to succeed: "all right, my darling, we'll do as you please, but I should at least leave a letter; each time I was away, I never left Father to fret without any indication." Catherine is happy. Unable to contain her joy, she snuggles into Vincent's arms. "Vincent, all will be well, I promise you."

 

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They move to Vincent's chamber where they will begin their night.

On his part, Joe has a bad surprise upon arriving at the office: Catherine has left a message on his answering machine, stating that she would be away from work for some time, without further explanation. Joe is quite worried; there is a lot of work to be done this week and he absolutely cannot do without Catherine.

While Joe tries to find out why Catherine hasn't come to work, our lovebirds prepare their trip. Cathy feels good; she wishes this happiness to be without end. And yet, after two days, she decides to go back Above. Vincent feels her sadness. "Are you happy, Catherine?" Catherine gazes at him without a word; she knows that Vincent has perceived her decision to leave. "Vincent, I'll be back, and this time we'll stay together for much longer, I promise you." Vincent feels her sincerity: "I understand, Catherine. You are right, we should remain cautious."

Catherine burrows into Vincent's arms. Her eyes are filled with tears and she has a hard time actually leaving. Vincent accompanies her to the exit.

Once there, Catherine leaves without a glance backwards. It is 7 a.m. when she reaches her apartment. The first thing she does is pay a visit to her father in order to reassure him, then she goes to the office where she will have to face off Joe. As she feared, Joe pesters her with questions: "Catherine, care to tell me where you've been for the last two days?" Catherine doesn't answer immediately. As she doesn't quite know what to say, she tries to justify herself as she can. But justifying oneself with Joe Maxwell is no easy job, bcause Joe only hears what he wants to hear. "Listen Joe, I wanted to be here, but I fell ill." Joe calms down and says: "Sorry Catherine, I didn't know that. You could have called me at home, I could have planned things ahead." Catherine gives him a smile: "I'm sorry, Joe." Joe likes Catherine and his anger never lasts long. "All right Cathy, let's not mention it again."

 

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As Joe returns to his desk, Cathy receives a call from Jenny Aaronson, her best friend of many years. Jenny is a prominent publisher with a busy and successful career. Right now, Jenny is vacationing at her parents' in the countryside quite a ways from New York City. Catherine and Jenny are very close; when Cathy needs to confide in someone, she tends to turn to Jenny and vice versa. With Jenny, Cathy shares a lot of personal details and feelings, but she has always refrained from telling her about Vincent. Vincent is a secret she can share with no one: not her best friend, and not her own father. Cathy doesn't often hear from Jenny these days, so that she is overjoyed with the opportunity to talk. "Hi Jenny! How have you been since we last met?" Jenny loves spending time with her friend, but it looks like she may be disappointed this time!

"Catherine, I’m calling to find out what you have planned for the holidays." Catherine is firmly determined to bring her own holiday project to fruition. "Ah, I'll be leaving for a while during the holidays." Jenny is quite curious and usually tries to know more; but this time, she asks no questions. "All right, Cathy, I wish you a wonderful Christmas." Cathy knows Jenny very well and guesses from her uncharacteristic reply that she is worried with something. She would normally ask her what's wrong, but right now, her main concern is the preparation of her trip with Vincent, and she doesn't ask Jenny any questions either.

Meanwhile, the community Below continues its preparations for a wonderful celebration. Vincent helps Father making garlands for the Christmas trees and other suitable locations such as walls and shelves. Vincent loves spending time with Father and vice versa. In Father's eyes, Vincent doesn't represent violence but is all that it means to be human: he is usually even-tempered, always generous, and most of all very intelligent. Father will never allow anyone to hurt Vincent, just as Vincent protects Father. Father hasn't seen his son Devin for quite some time now. "Vincent, this year Devin will be here for Christmas; I heard word from one of our contacts Above." Vincent loves Devin, who is a brother to him, but this year the only thing he dreams about is being alone with the woman he loves.

 

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On her part, Catherine has much to do. She must rent a vehicle that will make it possible for them to drive by night in reasonable peace of mind; of course no one must spot Vincent by day, the danger to him would be too great. There are only two days left before Christmas, before the time when they will truly be together. Meanwhile, Catherine and Vincent stay busy to try and keep their minds off the anticipation. There is work to do at the office, and yet Catherine has a hard time concentrating; her thoughts keep wandering off and it shows in her work. Joe doesn't mince his words and says to her: "Cathy, you have any idea what time it i? You forgot to attend Robert William's deposition, which was an hour ago. Where is your mind?" Catherine glances up at him and replies: "I know, Joe.... I am not quite myself these days. I need a break and I'm afraid I need it now."  Contrary to her expectations, Joe displays understanding: "Listen, Cathy, Christmas is in two days, just go ahead and start your time off right now. Don't try and come back earlier than planned, I'll find you a substitute." Catherine, who almost thinks her ears must be deceiving her, leaves the office without further argument.

It is five p.m. when Catherine arrives at her apartment. The first thing she does is take a good bath in order to unwind. The day may have been a shorter one, but it has been a hard one all the same. Vincent, who of course can feel Cathy's need for comfort, hurries all the way up to her balcony. When he arrives, Catherine is still soaking in her bath. Vincent is happy to hear her singing. He guesses from her joyful mood that the much-awaited time to be with her has come at last.

As usual, Vincent stays on the balcony to wait. Fortunately for him, it isn't cold at all tonight. After half an hour, Catherine exits her bathroom, and sees Vincent. She immediately hurries outside to greet him. Vincent is so happy to see her. He gives her a long, tender embrace.

It is now half past six. Cathy and Vincent feel so good now that they are together. After a moment, Cathy asks him a question that has been nagging her for ages: "Vincent, wilI you have supper inside with me?" Vincent does not answer immediately. Last time the question of entering Catherine's apartment had come up, a man had been stalking Catherine with binoculars, and had been about to attempt murder on her.  Since that time, Vincent has felt especially wary of the idea standing or sitting in full sight inside that apartment. "I'm not sure, Catherine... I said to Father I wouldn't come back too late tonight..." Catherine stands up from her balcony chair without a word, and moves into her kitchen where she prepares cocktails for Vincent and herself, which she then brings to the balcony.

 

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They remain a long while discussing what their life would be like if they could share it as one. Then Catherine gets up again. "Don't move, Vincent, I'll be back in a few". She heads inside,  where she takes a sheet of paper and a pencil, writes a note to Father, and hurries to her basement in order to bring it to the Tunnel sentry below the basement of her building. Tonight, Matthew is on duty.

"Matthew, could you please bring this note to Father? Vincent is staying with me tonight. We might come Below tomorrow or even later, I don't know yet. Make sure to assure him he has nothing to worry about."  Matthew is fond of Cathy. "All right, don't worry Cathy, I'll give him your message."  Cathy is back on her balcony in no time at all, and snuggles back into Vincent's arms. "Tu te sens bien, Catherine?"  Catherine circles his body with her arms. "Yes, Vincent, I am well, in fact I've never been better."

   It is now 8 p.m. Catherine and Vincent are still on her balcon. Night fell hours ago, the sky is full of stars and the weather is mild for the season. All at once, Catherine voices an idea: "Vincent, what do you say of cooking together? We can prepare dinner together." Vincent looks amused and replies: "You know, my dear, I have never cooked before. I have often watched William cook but I have never prepared a single meal on my own." Catherine laughs, knowing full well that life Below is far from boring.

 

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While supper gently simmers, Catherine switches her computer on. She has found a nice place where they could maybe spend their vacation. "Vincent I think I may have found the dreamplace that we need ". Vincent, amazed, asks her, "What is that dreamplace, my sweet ? ", Catherine shows him images of landscapes, magnificent places. "It is a ski resort, where we can rent a nice cabin and have beautiful walks ; it is a quiet place where anyone is accepted just as they are. No one judges their neighbors ; it is exactly what we need." Vincent is happy about that beautiful place. "But Catherine, where is this dreamplace ?" Catherine is eager to reply : "this exceptional place is exactly 125 miles from New York. " Vincent takes a second look at the pictures and map ; he is enthralled by such beauty. "I really like this place and I am ready to follow you anywhere, but aren’t you forgetting one little detail, Catherine ? how are we supposed to get there without being seen?"   Catherine is well aware of the risks inherent in such a project, but she will do all that she can in order to achieve it. "Vincent, I have thought of everything. I will rent a van, and we’ll drive at night. Driving at night will minimize the risks."

It is now nine p.m. and supper is ready at last. Tonight it is French cuisine for our lovebirds. They head inside. Vincent hesitates but eventually walks in. He discovers many beautiful things in Catherine’s apartment. The walls of the living room are adorned with beautiful paintings. One of them was made by Elisabeth and offered to Catherine as a gift. Elisabeth is a beloved member of the Tunnel community who prefers to keep to herself; the others don’t really understand why it is so.

Catherine has already nicely decorated her apartment here and there, but she’d like to add some tinsel on the Christmas tree and the walls.

Vincent has a surprise for Catherine ; the community Below has made many decorations for their friends and Helpers Above. Catherine is among those thus privileged. Rebecca keeps creating more beautiful candles every year. Samantha and Goeffrey are always happy to go deliver them around. Those are some of the moments of happiness that are meant to be shared around Christmas time.

 

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TO BE FOLLOWED