sequel to The Only Gift




chapter 42 ~ Being Wakeful for Her Sake 

Somewhere in us a dignity presides …
A dignity that trusts the form a day takes.


Of course we’ll be there, Jenny! She could say it, regardless of its impossibility. 

Then, believably, at the last minute their plans would go awry and she’d attend alone. 

He’s on call, she could say. He’s out of the country. Both statements were true enough.

And knowing Jenny, she’d be in such a dither the change would elicit hardly more than a harried look. Perhaps she’d roll her eyes and groan. Maybe she’d stomp her foot and huff. But soon she’d be on to the next detail. Then you can bunk in with Beth, Catherine imagined her saying. Where’s my hotel list. We’ll move someone registered there over to the house instead …”

Or … she could cavil. Of course we’d love to come! But I’ll have to ask. I’ll have to check.

Ask whom? Check with whom? Avoiding his name broke her heart.

Or she could tell the truth – I’ll be there, I will. But only me, Jenny – and brace for the logical question. Why? Why … only you?

How should she answer? She might wave her hand dismissively, or shrug and say, Oh, we’ve broken up, but if she could bring herself to utter such a lie, Jenny would never believe her. Catherine was changed, loved, in love, and Jenny knew it. She’d admitted as much. Because I’m not going to be … alone. 

She’d been pleased in a peculiar way – Jenny had seemed surprised. Proof, Catherine assured herself, that she’d covered well. But afterward, she realized she’d opened the secret door. 

At lunch a few weeks later, Jenny had walked through.

“So, tell me,” Jenny had said, no lilt of question in her voice. She’d raised her water glass as if in a toast, tipped her head, and waited … and Catherine had been transported back to their college days.


Sunday afternoons in Cambridge, they’d meet in Harvard Square and walk to Bow Street, down a flight of stairs to the cave-like Café Pamplona. There, over espresso and flan, they studied each other, nodding, waiting for ‘The Story’. It was their shorthand, their unspoken code – the shared solemn look, the raised cup or mug or wine glass, a pregnant pause, then one tapping clink for ‘thumbs up’ – good news. Two clinks meant … something less. She had almost always been the first to laugh.

Tell me. Even then, they were passwords. Triumph or tragedy, sometimes sheepish … those had been easy admissions, safe confidings. But today, this one … this one wouldn’t come. 

“I’m not really ready to talk about it,” Catherine said, fussing with her napkin. 

“Not ready?! It’s me, Cathy. Details! I want details!”  Jenny lowered her glass. “Well, tell me his name anyway!”

She couldn’t help it; she grinned at the memory of those same badgering words from her own lips – Details! – about Craig, the artist with the ponytail. Jenny had had plenty to share about that experience.

A lifetime ago, another life. 

His name. Instead of answering, she forked a shrimp and took a careful bite.

“After what happened that night …” Jenny mused, her fingertips drumming the tabletop. “If you were with someone, it must be serious. Wait a minute. Are you back with Elliott Burch?”


“Is it …” Jenny leaned forward, whispering. “Is it Joe? He’s always had such a crush on you.”

“It’s not Joe and he doesn’t have a crush on me.” 

“You’re right. It’s way more than that.”  

Something in the phrase – more than that – triggered her defenses. No! Those are our words. Ours! Tears welled desperately close. He was everything. Her denial was their protection, but a lifetime of it 

She had to change the subject. 

“Tell me more about your new project. The one for the Met.” 

“Oh, the Cloisters renovation! I’ll have my first meeting with the team the end of next week. It’s huge, Cathy. The book will take months.” Jenny drew a deep breath, her you-won’t-believe-what-I’m-about-to-tell-you breath. “Get this. My boss wants me to …” 


She’d felt guilty, trading on Jenny’s enthusiasms, but it had saved her from scrutiny … that day. Now, sitting knee to knee with her at her desk, Jenny squeezed her hands, a thin cloud of uncertainty veiling her eyes. Though she was still and her chest rose and fell in a steady rhythm, a pulse like a trapped sparrow beat in Jenny’s throat.

In her throat as well. The flutter prevented her from speaking.

What had Vincent said? Our love, this life … the separating secret of it. The questions from your friends will mount with time, perhaps causing a rift that cannot be mended with less than the truth.  Now they stood together, Jenny and she, at a diverging path. An answer was required and there were only two – the truth and not. Either would change everything.


It had been easy with Isaac … to trust. No questions, she’d said – a given, not a plea – and since, he’d never asked for confirmation, for explanation. That same night, in Lucy, Vincent found a tender shepherd. And now, without petition, Eimear kept secret their meeting – over laundry and recognition – even from Martin.

And Nancy. Nancy had proven true, or Jenny would already know …

Are you in love? Does he make you happy? With Nancy at lunch – in this same restaurant, she realized with a start – and in that long, relieving night, she’d found the answers, each like a gift discovered in surprise and delight. She’d stopped short of revealing the mystery, necessarily so, but Nancy’s last question – Will we ever get to meet him? – left her, not heartsick, not resigned, but hopeful that one day, she’d bring someone – her someone – Below.

Vincent assured her, promised her, when she was ready, he would stand with her before anyone. Yet Nancy was too far away and far too busy … for now. As for Joe … the blanket of complexities, heavy though it was, hadn’t smothered a flame of possibility, a  flame that seemed brighter just now, as if fanned by a fresh breeze.

But … Jenny. For months, she’d worried the way to tell. Come with me, she’d imagine saying, propelling her friend to the balcony. I want you to meet someone – the man I love. But in those dreams she managed nothing past the first halting paragraph of revelation. In those dreams, he never turned from the railing, never sensed them there behind him. As if it couldn’t be. Shouldn’t.

She’d anguished and belabored the question – Why? Why does it seem impossible? Now the answer came and what surprised her was … she felt no surprise. 

Because somehow, somewhere, deep inside you, you must have known.

~ ~ ~

The day began ill-omened – charred toast, a snapped heel … Marcy O’Neill’s doomed ambivalence – so when she took the call at Joe’s desk, her spirits brightened. She’d not heard from Jenny in weeks, but the silence wasn’t out of character. Jenny was known for her preoccupations. Just the day before, on 18th Street outside Books of Wonder, she’d run into a friend who’d told her, over coffee, about Jenny’s latest beau. “Is this The Crush?” she’d asked. Beth had laughed and said, “It’s way past crush now!”

“Oh, it’s great to hear your voice, stranger,” Jenny said.

Stranger. The word chaffed a little, but she admonished herself. Don’t be so sensitive. It’s Jenny.

“Is that Jenny Aronson? World record-holder for unreturned phone calls?”

“And don’t forget! Unrequited love.”

“That’s not what I hear. How are ya? What’s up?” 

“I’m fine. I’m great actually.” Jenny’s tone was breezy. “I got a phone call about five minutes ago … from Stephen Bass. He’s in town. He’s trying to reach you and I gave him your home number. And it occurred to me about a second later that I … probably shouldn’t have. He is soooo insistent.”

Jenny’s laugh, a dismissive puff and hardly conscience-stricken, hovered between ‘I’ and ‘shouldn’t have’. It stunned her … and would not be willed away.

Jenny knew Stephen. She knew him all too well.


After graduation, both in the City, Jenny and she had maintained a weekly get-together, usually dinner – early, after her last class and Jenny’s work, cheap and whenever possible, out of doors. One evening, she’d held out her glass, tapped Jenny’s once. 

What? Who?” Jenny squealed, and Catherine told her about the man in her Civil Procedures class, the man whose study carrel was across from hers in the Diamond Law Library, the man who charmed her from Torts and into the late afternoon sun, who brought her one perfect chocolate truffle one day, a single pink-throated lily the next. Soon, Stephen joined them for their weekly dinners. Soon, Jenny helped her rearrange her walk-up apartment so Stephen might move in. But too soon, Jenny noticed Stephen’s heated sulks, felt his icy stare. And then she witnessed one of Stephen’s rages over such a little thing 

Jenny’s shoulder was her asylum during those last miserable months of the relationship and afterward, when Stephen would … not … quit.

~ ~ ~

At some point in their circular argument, the fire in his eyes snuffed out. He quieted and stared at the floor, at last slapping his knees once and rising from the chair. She never saw him again – that was true – and in the following weeks, she moved from giddy relief to guilt, to anger – at herself – and embarrassment, back to guilt, again to relief. What she couldn’t understand, she labored to forget. Then one midnight she answered the phone and he was there, whispering, hissing, in her ear. “No one will ever love you the way I do”. She hung up and called Jenny.

When she turned the last lock on her door, Jenny pushed through and pulled her into a hug. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine. I … I’m sorting my sweater drawer.” She ambled to the bedroom, Jenny at her heels. The radio was loud; a plate of fruit and a stack of crackers crowded her bedside table. Her pale quilt was a patchwork of colored wools and nubby silks.

“I thought you’d be upset. Shouldn’t you file a report or something? Let’s go down to the police station. Maybe they could, I don’t know, drive by every hour or so.”

“Right. Like that would happen.” She sank to her mattress, a red cardigan wadded in her lap. “It’s nothing, Jen. I overreacted. He’s just … I hurt him.”

“You hurt him!? Cathy, I read stories like this–”

“Don’t! Don’t say it. I like my life now. I’m … peaceful. I don’t want to think about it. It’s over. Over.”

“He’s nuts,” Jenny said, plucking a grape. “Try not to forget that.” 

At first she marked the silence in hours, then days, weeks, until months later she realized she no longer jumped when the telephone rang, when there was an unexpected knock at the door. When Jenny told her of Stephen’s parents’ deaths, for a blissful moment she wondered, Who? Whose parents?

~ ~ ~

“Cathy?” Jenny probed her dismayed silence on the telephone. “You don’t have to call him back. You don’t owe him anything.” 

Then why, Jenny? Why did you give him my number? My home number? You know him; you know … almost … everything. You know enough.

“If you want,” Jenny continued, her voice maddeningly light, “we can talk about it over lunch.”

“No,” she answered. “I don’t. Not yet, anyway.”

~ ~ ~


Catherine dragged her gaze from Jenny’s and surveyed her office. Only a single coworker remained at her desk, shoulders rounded by pressing work. She imagined Joe’s office locked and quiet, him on the couch, his arm covering his eyes even in the dark. Outside, traffic droned, a punctuated monotone – away, away … home! 

If only ...

What did they owe each other, those who call themselves friends, sisters? Lovers? The highest task of a bond between two people, Rilke said, is that each protects the solitude, the privacy of the other. One night, below, at the falls, she’d confessed a flicker of anger with Jenny, her feeling of betrayal. If she hadn’t … she began. But in a distanced, stiffened, chilling intonation, Vincent echoed Stephen’s admonishment. Don’t be too hard on her. And still, now, though she longed to talk out her feelings, she couldn’t bear to bring up the subject, couldn’t bear the falter of his expression or the leaden thud of his heart at the memory of that long walk, the limp body heavy in his arms, the stickiness on his clothes worn all the way home.

You only did what you had to do.

I know that …

The words haunted her yet. He wouldn’t let her blame herself. He bore the burden, the blood of her curiosity, her ego, her guilt. 

She would, at least now, protect him.

Stephen would have found me anyway, she said to herself, if not, if never, to Jenny. And what happened afterward was my fault. Mine. But, Jenny, Jenny … shouldn’t you have protected me? Kept my secrets? How little … insistence … it took to expose me, to point the way. I can’t … I can’t trust you, Jenny. Not yet. Not with this. Not with Vincent.

Jenny huffed with impatience. “Say something, Cathy. Say, what color dress should I buy? Say, you’ve got to be out of your mind. But Cathy, say … something.”

~ ~ ~

Over the months, she’d let more casual friends drift away – easy enough, freeing. As if she’d released a clutch of balloons on a clear day, their colors danced for a while against the sky, then capered away on a breeze. Now, when she met an acquaintance from her old life in a shop or on the street, she realized few cared about the depth of her answer, should they think to ask how she was or where’d she’d been. From a few others the distancing dance was slower. Arlene still rang with invitations to dinner. The times she’d accepted, there had been seated on her right or on her left – once on either side – an ‘interesting single friend’. The last invitation came the week of Winterfest when Arlene offered her the choice of a seating companion – an investment banker or a politician. She’d managed a polite demur, but after hanging up, she’d doubled over, laughing so long it hurt, all the while thinking of Jenny, wishing they were together at some cafe, at a small, round street-side table, a glass of wine at hand, hooting at the joke, repeating the punch line. 

She’d straightened and wiped her eyes, sobered without ever having had a drink. Jenny wouldn’t … couldn’t … understand. 

The constant deflection, the husbanding of her words was exhausting. A wave of isolation washed over her. Really, she thought, looking around her apartment, this is all so tiresome.

Later, with a snort of laughter, again at the Falls, she did replay Arlene’s call, but Vincent grew quiet with her telling. Though he smiled at her story, a measure of joy faded from his eyes and he turned from her, toward the mists, a private struggle evident in his slowed, controlled breaths. She wondered what troubled him – his feelings … or hers. 

He wouldn’t say, instead returned to the book of poems closed on his finger. 

Twas a long parting, he read out loud, but the time for interview had come.1

~ ~ ~


“Cathy …” Jenny repeated. Her dark eyes glistened. “What color dress should I buy?” 

Catherine beamed love and history into the jest, taking both Jenny’s hands between hers. “This is wonderful news! I’m so happy for you!”

“Then you’ll come? You’ll take vacation? I’m going to need so much help. Your help! You have such an elegant touch and I can get so … frazzled.”

“Of course. I’ll be there with bells on.”

“And …?” Jenny’s query drawled out, nearly Ned’s three-syllable mimic.

She could buy time with a playful rejoinder, but not enough. Whatever happens, she decided, I’m ready. 

“I’ll be there. I’ll room with Beth if you’re sure she’s not bringing someone.”

“But …”

“He can’t make it, Jen. I know that already.”

“We can shift the date until something works for everybody, Cathy. I told you that.”

“There won’t be a date that works.”

“You like Ned, don’t you?” Jenny asked. “I want you to be a part of our life together. And I want him to know us, me and you.”

“I do like him. Very much. I want that too.”

“Do you?” Jenny’s eyes narrowed. “Then let’s get together, the four of us. Soon. Don’t say it!” Jenny protested her readying inhale. “The next time he’s in town then. I’ll ask him to the wedding myself. Or Ned can ask him, man to man.” Jenny tried a laugh, wincing with the effort. “Listen to that. He. Him. I don’t even know his name.” 

She wouldn’t deny him. Her only recourse was an inscrutable smile, her lips pressed together with no promise of explanation. 

Jenny frowned and withdrew her hands. “Why? Why won’t you tell me what’s going on? Who he is?” She sighed. “I know. I sound like a reporter.”

At the description, Catherine shivered.

“Look,” Jenny said, her voice low. “I could believe it if you said this … person can’t make the wedding. I could believe it if you told me he was off to Antarctica for a year measuring the ice pack or … counting penguins. I’d almost believe it if you said he’d been abducted by aliens!” Her shoulders sagged. “I don’t understand. We’ve always …”

“I know.” 

“And I know you! He isn’t married. You wouldn’t do that. And you wouldn’t develop a crush on some low-life you put away. It’s not Joe because you wouldn’t need to hide that; you’d just change divisions. Or … or quit! What does that leave? A Mafioso?Underage? I don’t believe it. And you haven’t broken up. It’s written all over you. Whatever’s going on, it’s good. So the problem’s not with the guy, it’s with me. There’s some reason you won’t tell me.”

“Jenny, I–  It’s complicated. I hope, one day …”

“One day! Now’s what matters.” Jenny stood up and backed away. 

Catherine leapt after her. “Don’t leave! Please!”

But Jenny whirled and stalked to the elevator, garnering hardly a glance from the lone soul preoccupied at her desk. As if by magic command, the doors opened before she could stab the down-button. 

Catherine blinked in disbelief when Eimear stepped out, just missing a collision at the threshold. 

Jenny turned for a last look … a shake of her head, a glare for goodbye. 

And the doors closed and she was gone.


* * * * *


“That should do it,” Kanin said. He dropped the handle of his maul through the loop on his tool belt and grabbed the pegged jack and king timbers with both hands, pulling with all his might. “Solid. No movement. Want to set the main header before we quit for the day? It’ll be a breeze with the two pulleys. Smart thinking, Mouse, bringing both.”

“Dominic sent magazines. Saw pictures. Remembered.” Mouse inspected the newly-framed ceiling of the junction, his fingers laced on top of his head. “Pretty. Like a church. Saw pictures of them too.” 

“That dragon-beam was a good idea,” Kanin said, eyeing the massive diagonal. “It ought to hold in an earthquake. But the herringbone bracing … too bad more people won’t see it.” He looked over his shoulder, out into the corridor. “Nice design, Vincent. Form and function. I still don’t know how you got that girder up by yourself.”

The winch cable lay stretched along the floor of the passageway. Vincent walked its length, the steel wire rope slipping through his loose fist as he checked for kinks and faults. After one pass, he made another, slower, his eyes almost closed, feeling for what he might not see. A break would be disastrous. And because he did not trust his focus, he made a third examination.

“Ready to wind it up?” Kanin asked.  

“You two go on to camp. I’ll get the pulleys ready and the winch positioned. First thing tomorrow morning, we’ll hoist this up. We’ll work more safely fed and rested.”

“You sure? Take the cat’s paw to Damien then.” Mouse searched Kanin’s wooden tool box for the clawed pry bar, then pulled a canvas pouch from his pocket and spread it open. “Needs these too,” he said, plunging his hand into a cardboard carton. A cascade of spiral shanked nails poured over his fingers. “Pull old nails out, pound new nails in, pull out, pound in, pull out again. Round and round and round, like a song.” He sprang to his feet and, laughing, dashed away, the sack of heavy nails thumping, clanking against his thigh. 

“Mouse,” Kanin said, shaking his head. “I missed him.” 

“He is unique.” He was tired, distracted. His arms, his shoulders burned still from the ring of the hammer blows. 

Solitude. That polar privacy.2 He craved it. 

Kanin chuckled. “I’ll stay and help. I don’t want you missing supper again tonight on account of me.”

Vincent closed his eyes, but only for a moment. As Kanin spun the drum, he held the cable taut, playing the rope left to right and left again to lay flat and even across the spool. When Kanin slowed, then stopped the rotation, Vincent looked up in question. A muscle bunched at the hinge of Kanin’s jaw.

“This is harder than I expected.” 

 Not the work, but life. “You made it so.” 

“Well,” Kanin said. “I didn’t think I deserved easy.” He pinched the bridge of his nose and pushed his glasses up. “You’ve been quiet. Quieter than usual, I mean. Everything okay?”

“Part of me … is elsewhere.” He stood beside her, shielding, armoring …

“Yeah. Part of me too.” Kanin sighed, a long, cleansing breath. “You’re right, you know.” 

“About what?”

“About yes being harder to bear than no. If Livy gives me this chance, if she’ll choose me … again, I have to be worth it. I have to show her who I am – no – who I will be. It’d be easier if she told me to take a hike. I already know how to be a loser.” 

“You know loss, how it feels to lose, Kanin. There’s a difference.”

“Yeah. I guess there is.” Kanin flexed his arm, flexed his fingers. “Could you have done this by yourself?” he said, after a long silence.

“With effort, yes.”

Kanin began again, the crank in both hands. The ratchet groaned and engaged; the line coiled on inch by inch. “You make it look easy.”

Martin’s words echoed in his memory, their hundredth repetition. Fake it ‘til you make it.  The advice steadied his heart, anchored his feet, had forced him to concentrate on the necessary tasks at hand, to be useful, available. Tamped within him, always, was the variegated swirl, the mood and energy of others. The cacophony uncontrolled was a river of grasping hands and confounding calls and there were times when he couldn’t hear his own voice. 

“But it’s not easy for you, is it?” Kanin continued. 

“No,” he admitted, another curing truth. “It isn’t.”

What he wanted – all he wanted – was to be with her. To prove himself worthy. Ready.

Devin once told him what it was like – the roller coaster at Coney Island – and today, this long, clattering day, he’d heard the tick-tick-tick of the climb, the flutter of her heart, felt the pang, the light-headedness of her long-held breath, the whoosh and whistle of her surprise, the whipping curve, the slide into grief. Now her sorrow, now solace … and a surge of blue across their bond – faith, trust.  Exhausted, revived.

Determined. And …

Coming to me.
Coming to me.
Coming to me.


Chapter Title: William Butler Yeats. Friends. from Responsibilities. 1914.

Opening Quotation: John O’Donohue. The Inner History of a Day. From To Bless the Space Between Us. 2008.

Dialogue: The Watcher. Season 2 (Catherine)

Dialogue: A Happy Life. Season 1 (Nancy)

Dialogue: Down to a Sunless Sea. Season 1 (Vincent)

Dialogue: Down to a Sunless Sea. Season 1 (Catherine/Jenny)

1.  Rainer Maria Rilke. Letters, to Paula Becker. Part IV. 1902.

2. Emily Dickinson. Resurrection. from Poems #62 – XV.3. Emily Dickinson. There is a Solitude of Space. 1855.



  1. “Jenny’s laugh, a dismissive puff and hardly conscience-stricken, hovered between ‘I’ and ‘shouldn’t have’. It stunned her … and would not be willed away.

    Jenny knew Stephen. She knew him all too well.”

    No, Jenny, you really shouldn’t have. That was a thoughtless betrayal of your friend’s privacy and desire to distance herself from a former boyfriend who proved himself to be a controlling stalker. And while Stephen could indeed have found Catherine’s private phone number some other way, or called her at work, being able to say “Don’t blame Jenny for giving me your number,” gave Stephen ammunition to wheedle his way back into Cathy’s life and a tool to use to further distance her from her friend and isolate her for further manipulation.

    I know the pattern all too well. Carole, your descriptive replay of how Catherine and Stephen’s relationship foundered and ended was so chilling. “No one will ever love you the way I do.” I certainly hope not! Because that’s NOT love. “At first she marked the silence in hours, then days, weeks, until months later she realized she no longer jumped when the telephone rang, when there was an unexpected knock at the door.” Only months? It took me years to stop looking over my shoulder for my abusive ex-husband. I only relaxed when I heard he’d remarried, and immediately thought, “That poor, deluded woman.”

    If a friend or family member gave my ex my current contact information, I don’t think I could ever forgive them for being the instrument of putting that manipulative, destructive, possessive man back in my life, even in some small way.

    “But, Jenny, Jenny … shouldn’t you have protected me? Kept my secrets? How little … insistence … it took to expose me, to point the way. I can’t … I can’t trust you, Jenny. Not yet. Not with this. Not with Vincent.”

    I know some people have given you a hard time for writing this schism between Catherine and Jenny, but I assure you, as someone who has LIVED it, THIS is absolutely how it feels and absolutely what an abuse survivor would do. And I know that while the door to Jenny has closed, for now, there is the possibility of a window opening later. And Ned is just all too tantalizing to leave just hanging out there. Who is he? Why does he look so familiar? Will he be the window, the connection that brings these friends back together? We can only hope — until you write it!

    And then there are other windows opening, because at the same time that Jenny leaves in a huff, Eimear walks in. The new friend who SEES and UNDERSTANDS without a word of explanation, and who keeps confidences. Manna from heaven!

    I always love your descriptions of the work Vincent and his friends do below — the tools and how they are used and carefully maintained and stored, Mouse’s quirky observations and descriptions. It grounds us in the practicalities and challenges of living Below. And Vincent’s conversation with Kanin once again proves to be educational for BOTH of them. “Fake it ’til you make it.” Martin’s advice definitely applies.

    MORE, please!



    • Karen, finding your comments on this chapter this morning did wonders for my spirits. I am so grateful to you for so many things. For finding what I hope readers will find in this chapter and this entire story – the pivotal moments, doors opening, growth occuring. Thank you for keeping after the mystery of Ned. Thank you for noticing the details of the below-ground work. Thank you for so deeply understanding the issues between Jenny and Catherine, the choices Catherine has to make. Although I’m terribly sorry you have first-hand knowledge of Stephen Bass-like characters, thank you for boosting my confidence over the depiction of these events and emotions. As you know, I have taken some guff over this chapter when it was first posted (before I started this *final* edit) a reader (maybe more, who knows?!) swearing off this and all other stories of mine forever (!) for thinking Jenny wouldn’t be the best secret-keeper. You really have made a difference today.

      Hugs for everything,

      • Count me as a FOREVER fan of your work. I think your instincts are absolutely spot-on, your ear for how characters think and speak is uncanny, your ability to dive deeply into sensation, inner feelings, atmosphere, and make it all come alive is breath-taking. You have been an inspiration and, dare I say it, a MODEL for me as I’ve labored over getting my BATB story ideas out of my head and onto the page.

        For instance, your descriptions of the work Below, the use of tools, how projects are conceived and implemented, really helped me to imagine my own projects Below — Vincent and his friends installing the door for his chamber (FINALLY!!), how the Tunnel community might organize and tackle sudden emergencies (Cullen’s sandbag crew, Vincent/Mouse/Kanin leading the main repair crew, the use of temporary supports, welding, etc.), Jamie and her crew conducting maintenance surveys, how the Tunnel folk might communicate locations/levels, etc.

        You are my touchstone for what is true-sounding, and I’m infinitely grateful I found your work all those years ago and finally had the nerve to post a comment. Your friendly and appreciative response and our subsequent on-line conversations became a friendship that spilled over into real life and that encouraged me to write my own BATB stories.

        YOU did that, my friend/sister. You most certainly did.



        • I truly have no words, Karen. I’m humbled and honored, beyond grateful, moved to sweet tears. From my heart, thank you.


  2. Once again, Carole, thank you for creating this amazing view of BatB and for inviting us in to savor and enjoy it. As I have said in the past, and surely will say again, it is always a pleasure to walk through the door you have opened to us and find myself immersed in your world.

    I’m intrigued by your portrayal of Jenny and find it completely believable. Not being especially familiar with details from the episodes, I had forgotten she had enabled Stephen to reconnect with Catherine. For her to do that was beyond careless, and now it’s obvious that there was a choice involved – perhaps deliberate, perhaps subconscious— but a choice nonetheless.

    Catherine’s decision is the right one, perfectly understandable, and I’m glad she made it. Her bittersweet relief as she accepts that she has done the right thing is palpable, and I was happy for her. Another step forward, another decision made that will bring her closer to the place in her life that she needs and wants to be. She knows she has made another right choice.

    This chapter really is all about choices, hard-won and life-changing – for Catherine, Jenny, Vincent, Kanin. Beautifully written! Such an effective and subtle but sharp crafting to bring all four of these characters to this point in their lives.

    When I read, I often can’t help doing so from both a reader’s and from a writer’s perspective. You invariably provide a wonderful experience from both views! Thank you!

    • Thank you, Linda! Finding your comment this morning has re-energized me. I was feeling a little overwhelmed, like there’d been a rockfall in the corridor I was traveling – not a total writer’s block, but enough rubble to make the way so stumbly, I was all sighs and wonderings if I might should just sit down a while. Now, though, I feel more like jumping from rock to rock … carefully! LOL!

      The telephone dialogue between Jenny and Catherine in this story was taken directly from the episode transcript. When I watch and rewatch this ep, I’m always struck by Catherine calling Jenny “stranger”, and by the follow-up “that’s not what I hear”. Clearly they weren’t that tight at the time. A long history, but with unsurprising gaps. And then Jenny’s toss-off of Stephen’s “insistence” … when she knew, made obvious by the rest of the conversation, that Catherine would not be happy hearing her admission. I could hear Jenny’s expectation of forgiveness in her “let’s talk about it over lunch” offer. I saw the light of a lot of hope go out of Catherine’s face. So clear to me, in the space of that phone conversation, that Jenny can’t be Catherine’s “person”. (She told Nancy so much more in A Happy Life, and her expression then was warm and radiant.)

      Whenever I’m taken to task about this, I always go back to the episode and/or the transcript and I’m always re-convinced. I understand – what Catherine wants or wishes for isn’t necessarily what is or can happen. I even think some of Cathy’s and Jenny’s renewed friendship (meaning more time together – “next week, over dinner,” Catherine says in a later episode) is evidence of Catherine not being willing to give up hope but at the same time feeling sad – trying to deny facts because “somewhere deep inside”, she knew.

      Thank you for giving me an opportunity to expound!

      Thank you for reading and for accepting my theories and story universe while you do.

      Thank you for the encouragement from your writer’s point of view. This chapter has a lot of time-jumps, emotional and mental back and forths, all occurring in the space of minutes in the context of Catherine and Jenny’s actual conversation in her office. It was tricky, and I’m so glad you made it through. It means everything!


  3. Thank you for a beautiful story, I am delighted with everything, these moments between Catherine and Vincent, their closeness is beautiful, they need each other like air. I’m waiting for the next chapter impatiently 🙂

    • Paula, thank you! Your very kind words were the first thing I read this morning. It means a lot to me that you’re reading and that you took the time to say hello.

      Now that my work for Winterfest is over for this year, I hope to be quicker with the posting of chapters than I was in the lead-up to the celebration, but I am, in general, pretty slow. 😅 I will do my best!

      Thank you again for leaving a comment here. Your encouragement makes me want to work harder.


      • I understand that such a great story requiers a lot of work, but know, that your words put me in a mood of joyful anticipation🙃🙂.

        • :-). {{{thank you hugs!}}}


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