Ronald bent his head as he listened to Jennifer, not knowing exactly what it was
he wanted to hear.

All he knew was, during the time he had spent with Lisa tonight, his thoughts
kept traveling back to Jennifer. He was worried about her, and he hated to see
her so upset, because of feeling responsible for what had happened between
Vincent and Catherine.

Ronald’s feelings seemed to be changing, and it was confusing and hard for him
to be sure what was going on!

He felt sometime, during the evening, at some undefined moment, a pivotal
telltale happenstance occurred, that opened the eyes of his heart.

Maybe it was all the talk of the Ballet, and the world Lisa’s life evolved around.

Ronald knew, as he listened to Lisa excitedly talk of her audition, and exhibited
exuberance, about how she had ultimately landed the part in the off-Broadway
Ballet, well it dawned on him, that he could never fit into that world.

In reality, he realized, he didn’t want to even try.

Jennifer penetrated his thoughts as she softly said, “I don’t want to make you
feel uncomfortable and ruin our friendship Ronny, something tells me to stop
right here, and I shouldn’t say anything more.”

Ronald thought for a moment, before he said, “Friendship…yes Jenny…we do
have a friendship. The night we met, you had so much compassion for  me, a
complete stranger. I knew right then, you were a special person.”

He continued on, as he marveled, “The way you were able to talk to me,
encouraging me to stop fighting my sadness. That advice you gave me…was so
helpful, and healing for me.”

Sincerely, Ronald bared, “That night I permitted my heart to cry out, until its
voice was quieted…and it seems to have purged my soul of its sadness, and left
behind…only the good memories, the happy times. Your words have done
more for me, than anyone else’s had managed to do. Now I find myself looking
ahead, and thinking of a future! I mean...look at me! I am going to attend
school, which will be fulfilling a dream I had long ago put away, and I am doing
this because of you.”

With heavy emotion, he said, “So Jenny, if there is something you want to say
to me, go ahead. Nothing could ruin our friendship, and no one in my life has
more right.”

Jennifer held his gaze as she contemplated to what degree she should reveal her
feelings. She feared it was maybe too soon to profess the full extent of her
fondness for him! So, she did hold back, maybe just a little on what she really
wanted to say, and with great restraint, she carefully said, “I care for you
Ronny, and I love being around and with you.”

Tenderly, Ronald replied, “I like being around you too, you have taught me to
smile again. I mean smile from my heart. It has been a long time since I have
been able to do that.”

Happily, Jennifer said, “Good, I am so happy I was able to do that for you.”

Ronald smiled, as he nodded and said, “Well you have.”

Jennifer replied sweetly, “Well that’s a start.”

In agreement, Ronald said, “Yes it is…it is a good start.”

Reluctantly, he then said, “I better go…I will see you in the morning Jenny.”

Jennifer tried to smile, although she was sure her disappointment had to be plain
for him to see.

Ronald explained, “It is late Jenny, and I don’t want to keep you from your
sleep…but I must say…you are too nice to walk away from…without
asking…if I could kiss you good night?”

Jennifer closed her eyes as she said, “Yes.”

And so, romantically, he kissed her, and as he pulled back, he smiled, and said,
“Good night sweet Jenny.”

Jennifer stood for a moment after Ronald had left, and she brought her hand to
her lips, and closed her eyes, as she thought of how sweet it was.

She joyfully hopped into bed, barely able to contain herself! How could she wait
until morning to tell Catherine? However, she would have to, since she knew
Vincent was with her! For now, she would lay there, thinking of Ronald’s
sweet, sweet kiss and dream of how and when, it would happen again.

Meanwhile, as Vincent, and Catherine entered her chamber, they together lit the
candles. After she lit her last, and extinguished the flint, Vincent took her within
his embrace, and asked, "Are you tired Catherine?"

Looking up into his eyes, Catherine softly answered, "No, I'm not. I was hoping
you could stay for a little while. We still have time before our curfew is up."

And so halfway teasingly, Vincent said, "The curfew is of your doing Catherine.
Perhaps we could modify it a bit. You do have the power."

To which she sweetly asked, "Modify it by how much?"

With a tip of his head, he flirtatiously contemplated, "Maybe until the nights
candles…have burned out.”

As she ran her fingers through his long soft golden hair, Catherine thought of
what Vincent was really saying, and just as she was going to answer him, they
heard a ruckus out in the tunnels.

As they looked out, they saw it was Jamie yelling at Mouse, who was  
struggling  to carry Laura, saying, “Watch out Mouse! You almost bumped
Laura’s foot into the wall!”

Mouse discounted her claim as he yelled, “Almost maybe, but didn't!”

Without hesitation, Catherine followed as Vincent hurried out into the tunnels,
and offered, “Mouse, allow me.”

Thankfully, Jamie bellowed, "Yes! Vincent has come to our rescue!”

Vincent took a relieved Laura from Mouse’s tired, and strained arms, and she
signed, “THANK YOU VINCENT!”

Vincent graciously said for Mouse's sake, “I am sure Mouse would have gotten
you safely home Laura. However I am pleased to help.”

As Mouse rubbed his arms, he complained, "Laura is heavier than I thought!"

Vincent then turned to Mouse and said, “Good job, I can take it from here.”

To which Mouse excitedly said, “I will wait for you Vincent! I want to show
you a new gadget I found up top! I think it might be a good thing to have for
cutting up the rest of those timbers in the renovation area!”

Vincent began to say he would see the new gadget in the morning, because he
wanted to spend time with Catherine, when Catherine intuitively inserted,
“Mouse seems so excited to show you Vincent. It must be a great find. I guess I
am  kinda tired after all."

To which Mouse excitedly, said, "You are right Catherine! It is a great find all
right! I have been wanting to show Vincent all day, but he can never find time
to do stuff anymore."

Vincent realizing Mouse was feeling left out, he looked thankfully to  Catherine
for picking up on it.

And so Vincent conceded, saying, “Very well Mouse, tonight then.”

Vincent set Laura upon her bed, and they all fussed, making sure she was
comfortable. As Vincent finished tucking her in, Jamie pouted, “Hey Mouse, I
wanna see this new gadget too! Where did you find this thing any how?”

Because of how Jamie was yelling at him earlier, Mouse looked irritatingly at
her as he said, “I found it up-top that’s all you need to know!”

Then with a smile, Mouse turned to Vincent and said, “It has a motor too, that
starts up when you pull on a chord! I will show you, and you can see for
yourself!”

Jamie suspiciously said, “This I have gotta see!”  

Under Catherine’s breath she whispered to Vincent, “That gadget sounds like a
chain saw or something! They can be quite dangerous!”

Vincent heaved an irritated sigh as he agreed, “Yes Catherine it does. I definitely
must go and examine this…this new gadget tonight!”

As Catherine looked sweetly up at him, she said, "Well good night then."

Vincent cleared his throat, as he looked back at her, and wanting to take her into
his arms, he looked to the right, at Mouse, who was impatiently waiting for him,
and he then looked over to the left, at Jamie who stood anxiously watching too,
hoping to be privy to a little something, something between the Tunnel Love
Birds!

Vincent looked downward, and tried to stifle his impatience, as he said, “If you
two would not mind, I would like to have a moment to say goodnight to  
Catherine, ALONE! I will meet you in your chamber Mouse.”

The two finally got the hint, and as they rounded the corner to head to Mouse's
chamber, they mended fences, and Mouse told Jamie all about this new gadget
and where he found it!

As they stood together alone at last, Catherine said, “Vincent, you shouldn’t
have been so short with Mouse and Jamie.”            

Controllably, he said, “I did not mean to be short with them Catherine, it only
seems no one gets the hint around here.”

With a bit of frustration building in his voice he said, “And I am beginning to
wonder, if we shall ever have any uninterrupted moments to share!”

To which Catherine sweetly said,  “We always have tomorrow.”

With hope in his voice, he lovingly said, “Then I shall look forward to
tomorrow.”

Sweetly Catherine changed the subject as she asked Vincent, “Oh, speaking of
tomorrow, are we still going to the concert tomorrow night?”

With a smile in his eyes, he said, “Yes of course.”

Happily, she conveyed, “I am so excited the orchestra is finally going to  
highlight the works of Beethoven.”

Contentedly, Vincent sighed, “I am pleased as well.”

Vincent took a deep breath, as he gathered his thoughts and said, “I will not see
you in the morning. I must help Mouse and Ronald with a project. Promise me
you will not take any chances.”

Catherine assured him, “I promise.”

Vincent thinking he would have to steel Catherine away to avoid any
interruptions, just to have time alone, and then suggested, “Thursday, I thought
we could have another picnic at the Falls, Catherine. This time just you and I.”

Excitedly, Catherine said she would love that! And knowing Mouse and Jamie
were still waiting, Catherine then sadly said, “Well I better say goodnight
Vincent. I
guess I won't see you until tomorrow night. I will miss you so much.”

Snuggling in his embrace, Vincent  kissed Catherine’s soft silken hair, and
breathlessly said, “Ah, Catherine, there is no way to measure my love for you, it
seems infinite and boundless. Remember...you are my life, my love, and my
salvation. Return safely home to me.”

                                       The End…sort of…
          
  To be continued in “A Dream within a Dream!
Sharon's Beauty and the Beast Home Page
The Shore of Dreams!
By
Sharon Holtz
Chapter Twenty-One
Final Chapter