Vincent felt so empty, as he re-entered his world...the reconciliation with Catherine did
not happen, and now the sweet memories of loving her, were all he had left.

As Vincent walked past the Library, he could hear Rolley and the children, rehearsing a
song for Winterfest. It was a song from one of Rolley's favorite musicals, "The All
American".  

As Vincent stood listening, to the children's clear innocent voices, his heart broke as he
heard the words, thinking of how this song seemed to portray all that he had lost.

The children sang
"Once upon a Time"































Silently he walked away to return to his chamber, knowing once upon a time, he had his
chance at sweet happiness, and that perhaps he was being naive, to believe he could have
it again.

As Vincent removed his cloak, he searched for Catherine's Winterfest Candle, and
because it was no longer there, he realized he must have lost it while in the city above.

And so, Vincent, with a sense of fait-accompli, sadly thought it was a fitting end to his
and Catherine's love story, he had not only lost Catherine, but he had lost the candle he
was to present to her too.

So...as the hour came to prepare for the celebration, Vincent broken-heartily thought that
it hardly felt like a night to celebrate...but he knew he had a role to fulfill, and would be
there for his Father, and the rest of the community.

Vincent knew, his absence would only serve his own self-pitying state, creating a worry
and concern among the other celebrants, tunnel community, and helpers alike.

So, Vincent carried on, moving about mechanically, as he readied himself for the yearly
event.

And though Vincent felt numb, and surreal as he went through the motions, he was
determined to do, what he had to do, to get through this night, for his Father's sake.

And so after Vincent dressed in the finery, he had stored in the back of his wardrobe, he
then prepared to leave his chamber, by putting out all, but the one auxiliary candle, which
he left burning.

As Vincent arrived at his Father's chamber, he stood tall at the threshold, and softly
asked, "Are you ready Father?"

Upon hearing Vincent's voice, Jacob excitedly looked upward, and said, "Yes my Boy...I
am."

And then, Jacob gingerly asked, "I...err...I understand you were above, tell me, does this
mean you spoke to Catherine?"

In reply, Vincent sadly answered, "No Father, I...I intended to, however when I arrived, I
could see Catherine was not alone. Steven, the man she was once engaged to was there."

Tragically, Jacob looked downward as he empathized, and said, "I see Vincent. I am
sorry."

Wanting to give his support, Jacob then hobbled toward his son, and resignedly he said,
"We have our work cut out for us then tonight Vincent. We must be festive for the others
who look to us for guidance. It is difficult, I know. With our circle so badly broken, with  
the absence of Peter, Catherine and our new friend Charles, it WILL be hard...however
somehow, for the others...we must try."

To which Vincent nodded, and sadly said, "I will put my grief away, the best I can for the
festivities."

Then Vincent  assuredly conveyed to his Father, "However, do not be mistaken Father...I
DO have much to be thankful for, and I will celebrate my good fortune tonight. If it had
not been for your vision, of a better place, of another kind of an existence...I often
wonder where else, could I have lived out my life so freely..."

With much emotion, Vincent then added, "...and if it had not been for your kind heart,
reaching out to accept such a different looking, lost child, so unconditionally as your
son...I often wonder what would have become of me."

Vincent, then concluded, "So yes Father, even though I have lost Catherine...tonight I am
thankful...to you and to our helpers, who make our life here possible."

Vincent then elegantly, presented his arm to his Father, and said, "We should go Father,
everyone will be waiting for us to begin the Winterfest Journey."

In reply, Jacob shakily smiled, and tearfully said, "Thank you for that. You are a
remarkable son Vincent."

Jacob then accepted his son's aid, and they then walked arm in arm, out into the Tunnel
Main.     

Yes...it was customary to gather first, in the Dining Hall. The designated meeting place,
where the walk to, and through the Chamber of the Winds, and ultimately into the Great
Hall, would begin.

So, as Jacob, and his son turned the corner, they crossed paths with Brigit, and Pascal.
And needless to say, Brigit's Emerald Green laced dress design, was...well...to put it
mildly..."Eye-popping!"

And although both Jacob, and Vincent, managed to retain their "Gentlemanly Air" by
NOT lowering their gazes to Brigit's cavernous cleavage, Poor Pascal, however, had not!

Yes, Pascal was truly enamored by this flamboyant Irish beauty, and could not keep his
eyes off of her!

Meanwhile, Brigit gleefully greeted Vincent and Jacob, by saying, "How wonderful ye
both look, all polished and shined up! Tis a magical night here in yer world, and I am so
pleased to be a part of it!"

To which Jacob said, "We are honored to have you here Brigit, and so pleased to count
you as one of our new friends."

In reply, Brigit said, "Oh my! Here I am Brigit O'Donnell a wee lass from Ireland, in this
exclusive, enchanting place, bein' escorted by the top brass! Trust me...it dinny git any
better than this!"

Feeling quite flattered, Pascal's face reddened as he said, "I...err, well we are happy to
escort you Brigit! But remember....it is P.A.S.C.A.L with an A, not an I."  

To which Brigit then apologetically said, "I am so sorry, Pascal 'tis such an unusual name,
that I just cannot seem to wrap my mind around it, and get it right!"  

In reply, Pascal eagerly offered, "Well, here's a tip to help remember my name, just think
of the famed mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal! Well, I was named after him!
Now he's the Pascal who lived from 1623-1662 and he is often credited with the
discovery of the mathematical theory of probability, and remember, he also made serious
contributions to the number theory and geometry! What a guy!"

Because her head was spinning with all these facts, Brigit cleared her throat, as she tried
to act like she knew who Blaise Pascal was, but in truth...she didn't have a clue!

And so Brigit replied, "Oh that Pascal! yes of course, Pis...Pascal that tip will be helpful,  
to be sure!"

Brigit then turned her direction to Jacob, and as she presented him with the note
Catherine had given her to pass on, she said, "This is fer ye Jacob."

And so, Jacob replied, "A message? Hmm, let's see what this is about..."

As Jacob unfolded the note, he then gleefully relayed, "Ahh, good news, Peter's nephew
is doing much better, and he will be able to join us tonight after all!"

And so curiously, Jacob asked Brigit, "How is it you are delivering this news Brigit? Did
you see him?"

To which Brigit tried to downplay the fact Catherine had given it to her, as she said,
"Catherine delivered the note...I suppose she asked me to pass it on, because, I knew you
were restin'...and I was the first person she crossed paths with..."

Upon hearing this event had taken place, Vincent looked over at Brigit, and with a tone of
disbelief, asked, "Catherine? She was here below in the tunnels? Today?"

To which Brigit answered, "Aye she was."

Wishing he could have spoken to her, Jacob replied, "What a pity I was not able to speak
with her."

To which Brigit replied, "Aye, I think she was disappointed as well, but as I say, she
didn't want to disturb ye."

With hope, Vincent carefully asked, "Did she ask for anyone else?"

Tipping her head, Brigit answered, "No, I am sorry Vincent...she didn't. She seemed
concerned to only have the message delivered...perhaps she asked someone else about
ye..."

Knowing anyone else of the tunnels would have conveyed such a message, Vincent then
sorrowfully said, "Seems doubtful...or I would have heard..."

And so as Jacob tried to lighten the conversation for Vincent's sake, he joyfully said,
"Well on a lighter note, Peter will be here! Winterfest without his presence...I hate to say,
would have been on the somber side. He has so much spirit...hmm, I do wonder what this
means in terms of Charles...or of Catherine coming."

And it was then, Vincent asked, "Did Catherine say anything about attending tonight?"

To which Brigit sorrowfully replied, "Aye, I did ask, and she said she would not be
comin'..."

As Vincent stood tragically pondering, he realized, knowing Catherine, without an
invitation via a Winterfest Candle presentation, she wouldn't have felt welcome...

If only he could have given Catherine, her Winterfest candle..there could have been a
glimmer of hope she would consider coming...

But meanwhile, because Pascal had not picked up on the gravity of the moment from
Vincent's point of view, he took Brigit's hand, and excitedly said, "I have to show you the
pipe system I had to repair, I had to add some elbows, replace some couplings and
such...so now the tapped out codes, continue on through the pipe system, clear as a bell!
The section is just around the next bend!"

To which Brigit wryly smiled and said, "Aye if you insist!"

As Pascal drug Brigit off, Jacob was pleased to have this moment alone with his son, as
he wanted to delve in, on a more personal level, with him about Catherine.

And so on a positive note, Jacob suggested, "Perhaps, Peter may provide some new,
additional information for you about Catherine...bringing a resolve of sorts."

In reply, Vincent reconciled, "That is what I fear the most...information I may gain
tonight, shall expire the flame of hope which flickers still in my heart. Forfeiting any
optimism I have left, sacredly enclosed there."

With a loving embrace, Jacob realized there was nothing more he could say...and he
thought too, that Vincent's relationship with Catherine seemed to be doomed and over.

Just then, they were rejoined by Pascal and Brigit, and the four of them continued
onward, looking grand as they approached the Dining Hall.

And as soon as they came into view, the community cheered, as they were all eagerly
awaiting Jacob and Vincent to lead the way!

Yes, the two of them were the Tunnel's royalty, the Father and Son. And they in turn,
graciously received everyone, happily greeting the helpers they had not seen in a while,
and warmly embracing their tunnel community as well.

The mood was gay, and it was then, all the females of the Tunnels arrived together, and
they were all dressed in the beautiful
satin dresses, they had made courtesy of Lin's
generosity.























And just as Jacob was talking to Sebastian, Mary stepped  into view, and because she
looked so lovely, under his breath, Jacob softly murmured, "Mary..."

To which Sebastian quizzically asked, "What was that Jacob?"  

In reply, Jacob politely asked Sebastian to excuse him for a moment, and he then
approached Mary.

Impressively he said, "You look...well lovely is the only word that comes to mind Mary.
Truly lovely."

Shyly, Mary looked downward, and said, "Thank you Father. You look very nice as well."
































She then inspected his tunic, and as she pulled a loose thread, she said, "I have always
admired this garment on you Father..."

Just then Rebecca stepped up and excitedly said, "Oh look Father! Peter and Charles have
arrived. They are here!"

As Jacob turned to the threshold, he stepped up to welcome both Peter and Charles.
Warmly he embraced them, conveying how happy he was they were there!

Peter then sadly said, what they were all wanting to say, and voiced his disappointment
that...Catherine would not be coming tonight.

As they all three, turned looking toward a heart broken Vincent, who was standing alone
on the other side of the hall, Peter then said, "I sure feel bad Vincent's message of
atonement didn't change things between them."

And so upon hearing Peter's terminology, Charles knitted his brow, and asked,
"Atonement?"          

To which Peter nodded, and said, "Yea, in the message that the nurse passed on to
Cathy..."

As Peter looked back at Charles' who was hosting a very baffled demeanor, he wrongly
deducted that Charles didn't know the whole story. And so he said, "I can see I have to
fill you in on all that happened around here, north of the equator. You see, Vincent was
actually on his way to apologize to Cathy, the night you had your Swordfish saga! So we
figured one way for Vincent to let Cathy know he realized he was wrong, was to send her
a message at the hospital, via the nurse on duty! But unfortunately, Cathy never
responded to his apology."

And then Jacob down heartedly, added, "Yes...evidently, his apology came too late."  

And because Charles knew what the note had said, he then clarified, "Wait a minute here,
the message Cathy received from the nurse, was no apology! In fact it stated the opposite,
it actually reaffirmed his stance, and that was why Cathy didn't respond!"

With the pall of another unfortunate "OOOPS" dawning upon the group, they began to
realize that somehow, something must have gotten mixed up!"

It was then, Jacob recapped, and sadly summarized, "So, it is because of this
misinterpretation of Vincent's message, that Catherine has decided to move on, and she
has since, reconciled with her ex-fiancé'."

In reply, Charles scoffed and said, "Moved on, and reconcile with Steven? Nothing could
be further from the truth. She has resumed a friendship with Steven, only to help him
cope with his terminal illness."

The three Amigo's united once again, all felt helpless, as they wondered how to correct all
these misconceptions.    

It was then that Lou, along with Dr. Wong, Lin, Henry, and some of the other Helpers
arrived. Lin looked anxiously through the crowd for Vincent! When she spotted him, she
told Henry, "I will be right back...I want to speak with Vincent."

As she approached him, she could tell without asking that a reconciliation had not taken
place between he and Catherine. And so she gently took his hand, and kindly said, "I am
so sorry Vincent..."

Knowing she felt responsible, Vincent tried to lesson her pain by saying, "Events unfold
Lin, both good and bad out of necessity, they are stepping stones to our destiny."

With a tear filled voice, Lin said, "But Vincent..."

Affectionately, Vincent took Lin into his embrace, and as he took the hankie from her
hands, he raised her chin to dry her tears, and asked, "For me Lin, try to smile tonight.
Our community  has come together to celebrate, and I promised Father...I would be
festive tonight..."

And so as she stifled the last of her emotions, she promised, "Then I will too."

To thank Lin for her generosity, Vincent then spanned the Hall, and noted, "Look,
because of your gift to the women, they have never looked more beautiful..."

As Lin took in the site of the tunnel ladies, with a hint of a giggle in her emotion filled
voice, Lin noted, "Or colorful..."

With a nod, Vincent replied in agreement, repeating, "Or colorful..."

Regretfully, Lin then said, "I better be getting back to Henry now...I will see you later?"

To which Vincent replied, "Of course..."

Meanwhile, Mary was efficiently informing Jacob, it was time to begin the procession.

And so as Jacob put everything else aside for the time being, he thankfully nodded to
Mary, and as he asked for everyone's attention, he then said, "It is now time to begin the
Winterfest Journey to the Great Hall!"  

With elegance, Jacob put his arm out for Mary, and gallantly asked her, "Mary...may I
escort you to Winterfest?"  

To which Mary gracefully accepted, by saying, "Yes Father."      

As he looked over to his son, he asked, "As per tradition Vincent, won't you lead us?"   

As Vincent stoically stepped up, it was then he saw both Peter and Charles! Vincent was
so happy they were there, and though he had so many questions about Catherine, he
knew they had to wait. And so with a welcoming embrace to Peter, and a gallant nod to
Charles, he answered his Father by saying, "Of course Father."   

Since Vincent was standing there all alone before the community, it was then Brigit saw
her moment, and was about to step up  to walk at his side, when suddenly...a gasp could
be heard throughout the Hall!

Everyone turned to the back entrance to see what had caused such a reverberation
through the crowd!

And as Vincent himself turned to look, he brought his hand up to his heart, and he huskily
whispered, "
Catherine..."

To be continued
Chapter Nineteen
Once upon a Time
A girl with moonlight in her eyes
Put her hand in mine
And said she loved me so
But that was once upon a time
Very long ago
Once upon a hill
We sat beneath a willow tree
Counting all the stars
And waiting for the dawn
But that was once upon a time
Now the tree is gone
How the breeze ruffled through her hair
How we always laughed as though
Tomorrow wasn't there
We were young and didn't have a care
Where did it go?
The world was sweeter than we knew
Everything was ours
How happy we were then
But somehow once upon a time
Never comes again
Master of my Heart!
Chapter Eighteen
By Sharon Holtz
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