Hope Leads Us In


- by Michelle K.


"I saw Kanin today," she said, wrapping her arms about her waist.

"How is he?"  There was an almost childish gleam in his eyes, a hint of anxiety ... and anticipation.  

"Lighter ... in a way.  And heavier."  Thinner.  Older.  Sad.

Vincent nodded ... heard the words she could not say.

"But," she continued.  "The facility is a good one.  Minimum security.  And close.  Close enough that I could take Olivia to visit, if she wants.  He's working in the library, the kitchen ... wherever he's needed."

"So he is finding some peace."

"I ..." she shrugged.  "I couldn't say.  He was quiet.  Eager for news ... but not eager to share.  It still haunts him ... all of it.  He misses his family."  She sighed.  "I'm doing what I can for him, but ..."

Vincent took her hand.  "No one blames you, Catherine.  Kanin ... does not blame you."

She dropped her eyes.  Standing side by side as they did, her silk pajamas and robe seemed so pale ... wispy and elegant and ethereal ... next to the rough and woollen black of his cloak.  Her slippered feet, her clothes, even her hair, which she'd not had time to free from its chignon.  All evidence of her life Above.  All out of place.  Even on her balcony.  In her world.

"I know," she said.  He was not convinced.  "I do.  I just ... I worry about her.  What it will mean for her ... how she'll cope."

"Olivia is strong.  And we all have rallied to her side.  I'm not sure I've ever seen the community so united, except perhaps at Winterfest.  Luke has found a constant companion in Samantha, who seems determined to adopt him as her own."  He chuckled.  "She has not quite mastered the art of bathing him yet.  Though she is trying."

Catherine, for all her guilt over Olivia's circumstances ... a single mother, thanks to me ... could not help but offer him a smile.  "And Olivia?"

He stepped closer to the balcony railing and traced its edge with his free hand.  His eyes moved over the city.  Lingering, wistful.  "She has few moments to herself.  Everyone finds ways to help her, to give her the time she needs to adjust.  To try and fill the void left by Kanin's absence."

"Nothing could fill that void."

"No.  But the support and love of her family might, in time, soften the sting."

"Yes."

"Cullen and Matthew have taken on Kanin's load.  Smoothing a few of the sharper cuts, finishing Luke's alcove.  Cullen is doing most of the work, but it will take him time to finish what Kanin began.  Kanin's instructions were very ... explicit."

"It was his gift to her.  I only wish ..."

"I know," he whispered, taking her in his arms.  Catherine pressed her cheek to his vest; the fabric was worn but soft, and smelled of the tunnels.  She breathed deeply, found the scent that was him.

"Would new tools help?  I could ..."

"It is not the tools, but the medium.  Cullen is a skilled craftsman, but his talent is for honing wood, not carving stone.  He has put all his energy to the task.  He even designed a small decorative nook in the bed chamber, where Olivia can place her most treasured possessions.  It was not in Kanin's plans, of course, but ..."

Catherine pulled back.  "But Cullen, like Kanin, doesn't know what can't be done."

Vincent smiled, and though there was a hint of sadness in his expression, an empathetic shadow of Olivia's pain, there was also joy.  And love.  "Cullen has begun studying the geology of the tunnels.  He is learning to work on a grander scale."

"Is it the challenge, do you think?  Some sort of test of his artistry?"

Vincent considered this, then shook his head.  "Something beyond that.  I don't believe he has ever fully recovered."

"From hurting Mouse?"

"And ... more."

Catherine stepped away and paced the length of the terrace.  It was a cool night; she felt it through her slippers.  The chill traveled up her legs to her spine, and she shivered.  "What happened left a permanent scar, Vincent."

Such feelings she understood.  She knew the torment, the fear, the guilt.   She had seen it too frequently in her line of work.  In her own life.

She shielded her feelings and faced him, offering a brief smile and outstretched hand.  He came to her side.

"I had hoped he would accept our forgiveness by now."

"Forgiveness is easy to accept from others.  Far more difficult to accept from yourself.  He needs to prove his worth.  He must convince himself he deserves this life ... the happiness he finds Below.  He's making amends."

Vincent considered her words.  "Not unlike Kanin."

"Yes."  She glanced out over the park.  The moonlight cast a glow across the treetops.  "And what of the new chamber?  Has Olivia moved in, finally?"  

"She has," he answered.  "Mary and Sarah have helped, but it is Olivia's touch – her warmth – that makes it home."

From Catherine's perspective, it had been a home from the beginning: built upon a foundation of love.  Family had been its impetus, passion its sustenance.  Happiness, its reward.  

Thick threads of longing stretched through her body and Catherine gasped, her eyes fluttering closed as she envisioned an antique headboard, a handmade quilt, shadows and candles and the scent of lilacs.

Do you think Olivia will like this room?

Olivia will love this room.

She ducked her head and opened her eyes, but if her sigh had been audible, if the tendrils of emotion had touched him at all, Vincent gave no sign.

"Tell me more, Vincent."  She took his hands and they sank together to the floor.  "Tell me everything."

Vincent drew her close and nuzzled her hair.  "The children are arranging a concert.  For Olivia – to cheer her.  They are not quite ready, but you will have your official invitation soon."

"Bach?" 

"Mozart."

She hugged him more tightly.  "What else?"

"William prepares Kanin's favourite meals.  Mary and Rebecca take her tea every afternoon.  Mouse has built her a set of bookshelves for Luke's room, and is helping with repairs."

Catherine pulled back with a grin.  "With Mouse's exuberance, Olivia will have a full working carnival before long."

"Indeed.  Though apparently even his genius cannot fix a squeaky bedspring."

Catherine's eyes widened.  "He didn't try to take it apart, did he?  Olivia must have been horrified!  I can get her another.  A few helpers, we could bring it down ..."

He chuckled and pulled her to his chest.  "Don't trouble yourself.  Jamie stopped him before he caused any damage.  He has been banished for a few days ... to Father's library."

Mouse?  In the library?  She peered up at Vincent, noted the quiver in his chin.  "I'm sure Father will appreciate the company," she said, an amused hitch in her voice.  "And where will you be, exactly?"

"Olivia has given me an errand that will take me far from the main tunnels ... for a few days, at least."

"Huh."  A gust of laughter escaped before she could stop it.  "Imagine that."




Return to the Labyrinths Project Page - The Squeak!

15 comments:

NYC Utopia September 17, 2010 at 1:19 PM  

"A la manière de...?"
Or am I seeing things?
The ending is a bit mysterious, I'll say...
But this stop ends my "squeaky round" on a tasty, tasteful note

Michelle K. September 17, 2010 at 1:56 PM  

It is unfinished! I ran out of time, and I just knew that ending was too abrupt! I will be tweaking this a bit more, Claire, so maybe after the weekend you'll get to see a finished product that doesn't leave you trying to figure out where the ending went. LOL!

SandyX September 17, 2010 at 2:50 PM  

This is such a peaceful but charged exchange between these two, Mich. And I do like the idea of Cullen becoming a stone carver, expanding their world below.

Ophelia September 17, 2010 at 5:15 PM  

What a delicate way to address the pain that lingers in these all-too-human, interwoven tales - and lives. You have ended the story on a note of wistful humor that neither invalidates the premise nor rings false; that, I think, is masterful. Well done.

Carole W September 17, 2010 at 6:35 PM  

Cullen said he always wanted to sculpt in marble. This is likely granite, but you've given him that chance. And nice that William prepares Kanin's favorite meals in his absence. His family will know him that way. There's a lot of redemption in this story.

The image of Mouse working on that bed is a gasper! I'm glad you stopped him in time.

Michelle K. September 17, 2010 at 7:10 PM  

Sandy, I do love Cullen, and feel he has not received enough attention from fans. There are many layers to his character, and though this story could not possibly engage them, I couldn't resist giving him a moment, however small. Thanks for your kind words – "peaceful but charged" ... I had not thought of it that way, but I can't imagine a better compliment.

Michelle K. September 17, 2010 at 7:12 PM  

Ophelia, your comments are as lovely as your stories! Thank you so much! I'm not convinced the ending is complete - an expansion of situation with Olivia is warranted. Perhaps a continuation at some point? I am grateful for your praise - thank you. And welcome to Eveything... it is a thrill to have you here!

Michelle K. September 17, 2010 at 7:14 PM  

Oh Carole, thank you for that. Poor Mouse - I have not been as kind as I should be. Ophelia was most attentive toward him, recognizing his competence. I, on the other hand, had to focus on his talent for destruction! LOL! Mouse could do so much damage with his tools ... I imagined the ripping apart of that poor mattress, and had to rescue it before Father raked him over the coals. A day in the library is a small price to pay for his exuberance. At least Father hasn't forced him into a game of chess! Picture Mouse sitting still long enough for that ... Father would need a rope and gag. Dear, dear Mouse!

Three Writers September 21, 2010 at 5:31 PM  

You know, Michelle, you have such a talent for delicate/strong stories...like this piece. The emotions are deep and harsh and powerful yet the setting is sweet and gentle. Thank you! Nancy

Cyndi D September 22, 2010 at 7:04 AM  

I always wanted to know what happened after Kanin went above; thank you, for giving us this. I can't wait for the expansion of this tale!

Michelle K. September 22, 2010 at 11:16 AM  

Aw, thanks Nancy and Cyndi! I wish I had the talent for exploring the lighter moments, but alas I'm too chicken to try. Maybe one of these days!

I am still wondering what happened after A Gentle Rain, Cyndi. I've barely scratched the surface here, and will no doubt explore it more at some point in the future.

OKGoode September 22, 2010 at 11:58 AM  

One of the things I love about our show is that not everything is all tired up in neat pretty bows at the end of each ep - we're left with questions and possibilities for Cullen and Kanin and so on. You've explored things so tenderly, Mich!

Vicky September 23, 2010 at 10:17 AM  

I so agree! It's just like Catherine says in Sticks and stones: Love may not be simple, but it definitely makes you happier. Cullen and Kanin have so much story yet to be unvailed, so thanks for this great piece. And Catherine... I wouldn't t want to be in her shoes. I need a Catherine-Olivia post AGR story! Any taker? ;-)

Michelle K. September 23, 2010 at 11:36 AM  

Thank you, Laura and Vicky! I decided finally to just leave this one as it is., and use the not-really-an-ending of this not-quite-a-story for something more. Takers, you ask? I'm in! I'm developing quite an affection for Olivia. I want to explore her life post AGR - a conversation with Catherine and Olivia might be a good place to start. ;)

Anonymous September 23, 2010 at 7:51 PM  

Oh Michelle, that was just lovely!

So sweet, sad, full of longing and embraces...happy, dreamy, romantic sigh!

You have such talent.

There is so much going on in your story - just beautiful. I'm going to go and read it again now!

Lion hugs,

Jodie xxoo

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