by Olivia K. Goode
Jamie stepped beside Catherine and placed the pitcher next to the basin. Vincent expected her to scuttle away from a stranger as quickly as possible, and he half rose to go to Catherine. But Jamie dawdled, lingered until Catherine turned, then she smiled. She said something with a straightening of her spine and squaring of her shoulders that spoke of pride and confidence, even… was it camaraderie?
From the opposite side of the hospital chamber, Vincent couldn’t hear Catherine’s response, but the next moment the two were hugging. He sat back down and looked at Father, safe, his injuries tended, asleep now in the hospital chamber cot. Another glance back across the chamber revealed that Jamie was already gone.
Catherine inhaled the tendrils of vapor that wafted from the warm water as she poured it from the pitcher, dipped her hands into the basin and drew them, cupped, to her face. The liquid caressed her cheeks, and they emerged apricot and peach, sweeter and riper than any harvest.
Another swipe of fresh water and he was drawn to the creamy ivory of her small hands. He remembered the night he saved Micha Langer, when she had reached out her delicate hand, swathed that evening in orchid silk, and tried to touch his burned cheek. He touched his own face, imagining how her caress on his skin would have felt. He hadn’t let her touch him then, but tonight those pearlescent fingers had fought for him, clawed him and Father both back from darkness and death. This time she had refused to let him go.
She brushed her fingers across her mouth, her lips a ruddy rose that reminded him of one of her negligees - the low backed one with the high slit on the right side. It was his second favorite of her nightgowns; the only one surpassing it was the short electric blue scrap of satin that made him feel heat lightning had invaded his veins.
Before picking up the towel and blotting her face, she looked at herself in the small mirror above the antique washstand. He had long ago memorized the exact shade of green of the eyes that were staring back at her from that looking glass: the soft jade, the flecks of gold, the hints of aqua that could spontaneously sparkle and give the illusion that her eyes changed color.
When she stood and dried her face, he remembered to breathe once more. He glanced down at Father again, sighed that he was still asleep and hadn’t witnessed this unguarded worship of Catherine.
“All the colors that our world lacks,” Vincent thought. “Mouse’s tube of colors gave that to you, Father.” His gaze traveled back across the chamber. “But it is Catherine who gives all that – and so much more – to me.”