"Take my hand." As Vincent held out his strong protective hand, he reached for
Catherine's small delicate one. With such care, he helped guide her from the
drainage pipe she was standing on, over to the one he had jumped to.

Catherine's eyes sparkled with excitement, as she looked at Vincent, before
taking the daring leap. And as she did so, Catherine couldn't help but remember
the last time they had taken this pathway, and it was when Vincent was leading
her back, to re-enter her world above.

The feelings of fear and uncertainty washed over her again just as if it were
yesterday. She remembered thinking how safe she felt here, and that she didn't
want to leave this world below in the tunnels.  She remembered feeling too, the
first sensations of not wanting to leave Vincent. This man who had saved her,
fed and read to her. This man who had helped her grow strong again, not only
in the physical sense, but he inspired her to grow in spirit too, in ways she never
had...and she has not looked at the world the same since.

Vincent continued to hold Catherine's hand as they traveled down the rocky
passage to the falls. Once they safely arrived, they settled down to rest in their
favorite spot. Vincent sat first and as he leaned against the rocky surfaced wall,
he lovingly brought Catherine close to him. And as she looked around at this
majestic magical cavern, she marveled, "It's so beautiful here."

Vincent gave Catherine a quick hug within his embrace as he took in the most
beautiful sight he himself had ever seen, his Catherine! He loved the way she at
times looked at life, so excitedly, much as a child would. And though he tried,
he couldn't remember ever looking at life that carefree.

Vincent then brought out the book he had re-discovered looking through his
extensive library, which was Joseph (John) Merrick's Autobiography. The telling
of this remarkable man's life, in his own words, beguiled Vincent so. And
because this man had such a loving forgiving nature, Vincent felt he needed to
be held up and admired for all to emulate. At the end of the book, there was a
poem, a beautiful poem, and it moved Vincent so, perhaps partly because of his
own plighted fate, but mostly because the words and the sentiment were so
poignant.

And so Vincent opened to the last page, and in his deep velvety voice, he began:

"'Tis true my form is something odd
But blaming me is blaming God
Could I create myself anew?
I would not fail in pleasing you
If I could reach from pole to pole
Or grasp the ocean with a span
I would be measured by the soul
The minds the standard of the man"

After Vincent finished the recitation, Catherine shared, "I do know Joseph
Merrick's story, and I have always thought of him as possessing a soul so
advanced beyond the ordinary human spirit. How do you suppose he was able
to endure so much pain and cruelty from the unkind people around him, and yet
sustain a childlike perspective about the things he loved?"

Vincent looking out over the falls and with a faraway look answered her, "By
not focusing on the cruelty Catherine, but rather on the beauty. He had some
wonderful people in his life as well."

Catherine hearing Vincent's words, wondered if that simple truth was what has
sustained Vincent throughout his life as well.

There they contentedly sat, reading to each other until Vincent told Catherine it
was time they should leave for the Dining Hall. Yes Catherine had been invited
to attend an impromptu celebration, where anyone who cared to, could prepare
a special dish to share. And of course Catherine wanted to, and so she prepared
a huge pan of Lasagna.

Upon entering the Hall, the popular couple was enthusiastically welcomed, and
it was the smaller children, who especially loved not only Vincent, but Catherine
now too. Running up they all said hello, and told her they were happy she came
tonight. Smiling she returned their kindness by saying, she was so happy to be
there with them too! Yes when Catherine was in their midst, Vincent would just
watch as she showered the children with love and affection, which would make
Vincent love her all the more...

The teenage girls also admired Catherine and marveled at her beauty, knowing
she could have anyone in the whole wide world, and were intrigued that her
love led her there to Vincent!

And Catherine following her heart, was a tremendous example for them, a
lesson to love purely, and without reservation. The girls during their girl-talk,
would often discuss the relationship between Vincent and Catherine, and they
wondered whether they had kissed or not! Yes the young girls noticed and
wondered about everything, and it was fun for them to speculate on such a
notion.

As Jacob made his rounds greeting everyone before Dinner, he then approached
the pair, and addressing Catherine specifically, he said, "Good evening
ahem...Catherine, I trust you have enjoyed your day here with us?"

As Catherine looked up at Jacob, she smiled as she answered, "Oh yes Father, I
did."

To which Jacob nodded, and said, "Good, good, very well then, shall we all be
seated?"

The relationship between Jacob and Catherine was a complicated one, and
though it was improving, it still was not what any one would call fuzzy warm
yet. Neither one felt relaxed around the other, and though she did admire Jacob
immensely, she just couldn't seem to let her guard down when she was around
him. And Jacob too couldn't seem to loosen up with Catherine. He tried in his
own reserved way, and things were getting better each time they met, but was
still...a bit on the uncomfortable side.

And so as Jacob took his place to preside over the evening meal, he prayed his
petition of Thanks, and gave everyone the OK to get in the chow line! That's all
it took, for the community to line up for the Buffet. And as Catherine and
Vincent took their turn helping themselves, she happily served Vincent a big
square of her Lasagna, and as he thanked her, he also assured her how delicious
it looked!

Catherine was so happy Vincent seemed impressed by her dish, and so as he
neared his last forkful of her Lasagna from his plate, she offered, "Shall I get
you some more?"

To which Vincent abruptly stopped her, as he said, "NO...ahem, no, no thank
you, I eh, I do not want to over eat."

Understanding, Catherine nodded in agreement, and said, "Of course."

Catherine then turned her attention to those who had taken scoops from her
dish, but were not finishing their helpings!

As fortune would have it, just then Jacob starting coughing, and called for some
water to wash down his scoop of Lasagna!

Meantime, as Catherine with concern looked up at Vincent, she caught him
giving the rest of his portion to Arthur, Mouse's Raccoon! And when Catherine
saw Arther turn up his nose and run away, she worriedly asked, "Is there
something wrong with my cooking?"

Upon seeing Vincent was speechless, and searching for a way to answer her
question, she decided she had better taste her cooking for herself. And so she
took a bite, and embarrassingly noted, "Oregano, there is too much Oregano!
This tastes terrible!"

And so Catherine felt she needed to issue an apology to Jacob, and to the
community, and stood up to say, "I apologize everyone...and Father I hope you
are all right..."

Sportingly, Jacob gave a thumbs up, as he drank from his goblet, and Catherine
continued, "Good, I am so glad! Clearly, I put in too much Oregano!"

Everyone was kind, and said it didn't taste too badly, and thankfully, William
stepped up to save the day, by humorously saying, "Don't think of yourself as a
bad cook Catherine, but rather as a zealous advocate for Oregano!"

The whole community shared a laugh at William's joking, and Catherine was
able to save face by admitting to her mis-measuring!

Sweetly, Vincent privately told her, "Your efforts are so much appreciated,
please don't let this concern you."

To which Catherine humorously pouted, saying, "Not even Arthur would eat it
Vincent!"

Admitting this was true, Vincent then shared, "There has been times in the past,
when Arthur has refused to eat a few of Williams dishes as well!"

Catherine's eyes widened, when she asked if that was true, and when Vincent
said it was, she then smiled and said, "I guess I am in good company then."

With the lasagna fiasco behind her now, Vincent and Catherine continued to
enjoy the fellowship of everyone around them at their table. And after dinner,
they along with everyone else, helped with the clean up.

Sadly it wasn't long after their meal, Catherine told Vincent she should go. After
all, it was a work night. So Vincent gathered his cloak along with her coat and
prepared to escort her home.

As they said their good nights to everyone, Mary approached them before they
left, and gave Vincent an invitation. Excitedly she exclaimed, "Some of the older
children came up with this idea for a party, and they are so excited. Anyway, it
should be lovely. I do hope to see you both there. Goodnight."

As they walked through the tunnels, Vincent silently read the invitation, and
then refolded it. As Catherine looked up at him, she waited for him to tell her
about it, and when he remained silent,  she realized he was not going to share
with her what it said.

Though she was curious, and feeling hurt, she knew when Vincent put up his
barriers, it was for a reason, and she tried never to push.

And so arm in arm they walked silently through the park, and though she was
troubled by his mood change, she tried to act as if she didn't notice. And instead
remarked about the beautiful evening, and of how bright the stars were tonight.

As Vincent looked up in kind, he too had to comment on their brightness,
because of the magical quality that they twinkled this night.

Looking up still, Catherine said, "You have to make a wish Vincent...wish on
your lucky star..."

In reply, Vincent asked, "How do I know which one it is?"

With a whisper of a voice, Catherine answered, "You will know, it will be the
one that first catches your eye."

And so as Vincent succumbed to Catherine's request, he made his wish on his
lucky star.

Turning to look down at Catherine, he then asked, "What about you
Catherine...aren't you going to make a wish?"

As she embraced his arm, she confessed, "Oh Vincent I already did."

Even though neither one asked what the other's wish was, they both sensed it
had something to do with their relationship and the bond which connected them.

And as they parted, Vincent said he would be waiting for her on her balcony.

And so as Catherine opened the balcony doors, she stepped out into the night's
darkness. Happy to see Vincent was already there, she then joined him at his
side as he was gazing over the landscape, and seemed very deep in thought.

Catherine let out a shiver on this cold chilly February night, and thought to her
self how nice it would be if Vincent would finally consent to enter her
apartment. And so Catherine asked in a way that would be hard to refuse, as
she noted, "Vincent, it is so cold out tonight, perhaps it would be nice if we
went inside and built a fire. A fire we could share."

Vincent raised his eyes to look at Catherine and past her into her softly lit
apartment. Vincent then made a slight overture forward, as tonight, he would
enter her home.

To be continued.
Chapter Two
Catherine and Vincent have endured much in their first year together.
The Bond between them has deepened, and has gained such strength,
that they love and cherish each other more with every passing day.
And although the ways of love and romance are all new to Vincent,
he manages to make Catherine happier than she had ever been.
Valentine's Day is in a few days, and it will serve them well
as a wonderful day to celebrate their love!
Sweet Passage!
By Sharon Holtz
Chapter One
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