sequel to The Only Gift

IRON BEHIND THE VELVET

 

 

chapter 6 ~ Seeing into the Heart of Things

We are all a sun-lit moment come from
a long darkness, what moves us always
comes from what is hidden, what seems
to be said so suddenly has lived
in the body for a long, long time.

 

In the elevator, Joe pulled a fold of bright blue cloth from his jacket pocket – Mets caps, a little crumpled, one for her and one for him. He snugged his on.

“You’re going like that?” Catherine eyed his suit and tie.

“Afternoon game,” he said. “Businessman’s special. I’ll fit right in.” He preened before the security mirror, adjusting the brim of the cap, smoothing his lapels. Over his shoulder, he eyed her head to toe. “What about y–”

He made a strangled noise. The businessman all but disappeared, in his place a teenage boy stuttered and blushed for having been caught looking as playful and invited as it was. She bit back a laugh, but just barely. “I brought a change,” she said, patting her briefcase. “And I didn’t wear heels.” She slid a booted foot over to his laced-up derby shoe, tapped it with the toe.

His cheeks still pink, he pretended to choke himself, pulling the ends of his tie straight out. She snorted and he grinned. “Got a sweater in the car,” he said. “And sneakers.” Delivered from the elevator, they race-walked the lobby for the door.

Once outside, he rushed her across Centre Street and through the courtyard, up LaFayette to the corner. She could see his car, nosed to the curb of a coveted lot behind the Mission, the attendant slouched against the fender.

“You found a place on White Street! Right at the entrance, ready to go? Who’d you bribe and with what?”

“Stick with me, kiddo. I know all the right people.”

Joe shrugged out of his suit coat even as he unlocked the door, losing his tie before he turned the ignition, sending it sailing like a kite’s tail over his shoulder. There were, Catherine noticed, several coils and jumbles of patterned silk on the back seat already, a basketball as well, his gym bag, and on top of that, a pair of red high-tops, clearly well worn.

“I never took you for a Converse man,” she said. It wasn’t just banter – she really was surprised, a side of him she hadn’t seen – or noted anyway.

“Gotta keep it hot for ‘em,” he answered.

The lot attendant folded back the accordion gate and nodded them through, but Joe rolled down his window. “Thanks, Cesar. You made my day go a whole lot better.” He held out a doubled-over twenty, but it was waved away.

“Not taking that. My Lita’d have my hide. That Twinks is un demonio.”

“Twinks?” Catherine asked, once they’d nosed out on to White Street.

“Cesar’s grandmother lives in the building across from mine; Twinks is her cat. He’s kinda … unpredictable, Twinks is, I mean, but she’s in the hospital for another couple days so I’m feeding him, cleaning up … you know.”

“You’re a good man, Joe.”

“I don’t know about that.”

“Well, I do. And you’re a cat person too!”

“No, I’m not. But Elena’s a nice lady. She makes spectacular biscochitos.”

She laughed. Joe did like his pastry. Vincent does too.

“Quite a coincidence your neighbor’s grandson working at the White Street lot.”

Joe shrugged. “Cesar was between jobs and Elena told me he wasn’t having much luck out there. I play pick-up with Bill every now and then, the guy whose dad owns all those garages? We went to high school together. Anyway, I knew he was looking for somebody for the mid-day shift so I took Cesar along to a game …”

“You are a good guy, Joe. A really great guy.”

“Tell your friends, will ya?”

 

White Street was one-way, one-lane. A turn on to Church should have taken them to Canal where they could zip – relatively speaking or, rather, wishfully thinking – over to the Henry Hudson and head north. But an incident of some sort at the corner of Lispenard forced them to double-back on Walker. The detoured traffic was stubborn and slow. Slower than slow. All this time in the car and they were hardly a block north of where they started.

They crept along, Joe riding his brakes and squinting, escape growing more and more necessary … edging up on Cortlandt Alley where Gideon often played to a lunchtime audience. Had he … Before? A familiar fog curled from the brick and ironwork canyon – steam seething like dragon’s breath from the pipes jutted through a garment factory’s windows. The first time she’d tossed a message in to the case open at Gideon’s feet – at that very moment – a white hisssss had burst overhead … and the mist billowed around him, veiling him, obscuring all but the sound of his saxophone, the stark and gritty corridor behind him made an enchanted place. She watched for him now … she’d send a smile below if nothing else. But no, not today.

 

Finally! They weren’t exactly cruising with the top down, but as Joe said his dad used to say, they were making time. Downtown’s jangled fervor receded block by block by city block, and after half an hour of shop talk and the exchange of some juicy judicial gossip, they’d quieted. After the bridge over the Harlem, as they ramped north from The Corkscrew, they passed a sign for Yankee Stadium. Joe growled and looked over at her. “Hey. You asleep?”

Not asleep. Thinking. Hoping for the best. Imagining. But she couldn’t explain. Instead she rolled her shoulders, stretched her arms as best she could from her seat and smiled.

“Long way up here,” Joe said.

It was. A long way down too.

The last minutes on the expressway took them through the woods of Van Cortlandt Park. Though the maps she’d studied had made little sense – the landmarks below were unmatched to what she knew – she was close to him, as close as she might be for days, for weeks. They traveled through … over … too quickly. I’m here, Vincent.

“Howland House,” Joe said. “What about this school, Cathy? Since that Ridley Hall business, I … well, I kinda question everything.

“And everybody?”

“You know … people.”

In truth, she’d had a flash of the same questioning. The intensity, the enticement, of the pull she felt to Eimear, to Flynn, to this day together … felt almost too right. A beginning so searched for. What she wanted seemed so impossible – almost un-nameable – yet feeling it possible made her doubt her judgement. Am I … rushing … out of need?

“But somehow,” Joe was saying, “I just can’t put Eimear in on anything … dark. Not after the interview we had with Flynn O’Carroll. The impression I got? She’d go to the mat and take the bad guy with her.” Joe gave her a sideways grin, though he kept his eyes on the road. “Like you would, Radcliffe.”

Or because somewhere deep inside, I know.

 

“Almost there. We’re gonna make it in time, but just barely.”

Joe’s words spurred her to action. She wriggled from her business-y jacket and buttoned on the cardigan from her briefcase, pulled her earrings free. Her hair scooped to a ponytail, she threaded it through the back of the cap.

“How bad do these kids have it?” he asked.

“I checked into it a little this morning. The school’s mission is to help them be ready for a home and a family. Adoption hopefully, or fostering. Howland is the next phase after crisis intervention and emergency treatment. Before that though …” Her voice faltered. “Sexual abuse, severe emotional abuse, physical violence, traumatic neglect. Even some instances of cult-based ritual abuse.”

His knuckles paled on the steering wheel. “Every time we get one of these bastards on the stand, I want to rip his throat out with my bare hands. And when we lose a case … ”

“I know,” she said. A vein pulsed in his neck, his mettled heart, his vulnerabilities evident and dear. Sometimes he seemed so alone. “Me too.”

 

Trees arched over East 233rd, promising shade once spring had passed to summer. On one side of the roadway, behind a stone wall and iron railing, Woodlawn Cemetery stretched for acres, shrubs in jeweled bloom at the fence. With no tall buildings looming, the streets they traveled were unshadowed but for trees, the houses brick and frame with tended, flowering yards, some two, some three stories high. She stole a glance at him. Leave it for now, she wanted to say … and did, with a hand laid lightly on his arm.

“What does Eimear do there?” he asked, the taut chord eased from his voice. “Do you know?”

“She’s in development. Fund raising, gifts, that sort of thing.”

“Have you met her sister?”

“No, but I’ve been in her shop near the Village. It’s an amazing place. Eimear says she’s … unusual.”

“What do think that means?”

“No idea, but we’ll find out soon. You turn left at the next light.”

 

“Nice up here,” he remarked, once they’d cleared the intersection, laughing as he pointed out in the space of a single block an Irish butcher, the Irish Baker, a diner and four Irish pubs. “My kind of neighborhood.”

She started to reply, but managed only a garbled sound.

“What?” he demanded, staring at her, she knew. She didn’t answer … couldn’t … could only hope he’d be distracted soon enough. Her face was pressed to the window.

Dominic’s van was parked at a building just off Katonah Avenue.

* * *

They pulled into the shaded, curved drive at Howland House, a shake-sided structure once a schoolhouse, augmented now with wings of dormitories and classrooms. Eimear must have been waiting just inside because they’d just pulled into a visitor’s parking spot when the door opened. She waved them up the steps.

“You’re here!” she said, ushering them in. “And we’re beyond grateful.” She led the way down a cool hallway and out the rear door. “The kids are wild, I’m telling you now. You can still change your mind and I wouldn’t blame you, but please don’t.” She laughed but her eyes were serious. “We’re waiting for a couple of guys from Flynn’s truck.”

The bus – its doors open, the motor running – was parked near the playground where a woman led twenty children in enthusiastic charade. “Safe?” she cried and each child fell to one knee, both hands sweeping the air.  Each leapt up, thumbs outstretched, when she called “Out?” and at “Ejected?,” when she kicked make-believe dirt over an imaginary home plate, twenty forefingers pointed the way to the dugout. As the children boarded the bus, the woman stopped them one by one on the first step. She leaned in close and whispered to each small ear. They took their seats and squirmed against the windows.

“That’s my sister,” Eimear said, shaking her head. “Getting them all energized. Here she comes. I’ll introduce you. Rosie, I asked you to please contain yourself, and you went straight ahead and stirred them all up.” Eimear’s mouth turned down in a stern look.

“So these are your lawyers?” The woman walked – no, drifted – over to Joe. A dozen scarves of as many colors fluttered from her shoulders and belt. “You don’t really look like one,” she said to him, turning then to Catherine. “But you do.”

“Ro! Stop. I warned you to be nice. This,” Eimear said with a dramatic sigh, “is my only sister, Rosaleen McDermott.”

“What do I look like?” Joe asked instead of greeting her. In the next instant, his brows pulled together in his stricken look.

Rosaleen grinned. “I dunno, maybe a … butcher?”

Catherine snorted. “That’s what we call him. With a capital ‘B’. Behind his back, of course.”

“Right. Sure you do.” Joe blushed and studied the hat in his hand.

“What was the whispering?” Catherine asked.

“I gave them each a magic word and if a grown-up says it anytime this afternoon, they get a prize. From you.”

“But … what’re the words?” Joe asked, a fleet moment of wonder in his eyes. She would tease him about that look later, but the bus driver revved the motor and a cry went up from the passengers for them to hurry up.

“Oh, you’ll find out,” Rosie said. “I hope you brought your wallets.”

“Ah, and here’re the boys,” Eimear said as two uniformed ESU officers joined them on the pavement. “Catherine, Joe … this is Albie and JT. And you two know Rosie well enough. We’d best go before the wee ones get overheated. Did you bring your earplugs?”

* * *

Eimear introduced Mr. Maxwell and Ms. Chandler, Officers Castillo and Kneath to their charges, assigning four to each and to Rosaleen – Miss Rose. A list of rules was read out loud, limits set to sodas and snacks. Pleas to stop at the zoo they passed were met with the promise of another day. Though only one argument broke out, and that over possession of the window seat as they crossed the Whitestone Bridge, the bus vibrated with energy long after it rumbled into a perimeter lot at the stadium and the motor stilled.

“Now, boys and girls.” The driver stood in the aisle, commanded it. Silver-haired and gravel-voiced, she snapped her fingers for attention. “What will we not do, no matter how bad it gets?”

“We won’t BOOOOOOOO!” the children sang out.

“And why will we not?”

“Because it’s RUUUUUUUUDE!

Miss Stella dusted her hands, the subject permanently closed. “All set then,” she said, ushering each child past her down the steps into a sunny, spring afternoon.

 

A stop at the restroom, an inspection of hands, in line for concessions. Questions asked and answered, asked again … finally in their seats. A head count and then another to be sure …

Catherine closed her eyes, willing herself to remember everything – each earnest face, each damaged but tenacious spirit. So much had been stolen from them, and yet they were happy. Geoffrey, Samantha, Eric, Ellie … Her heart seized, but it was true. They’d been saved as well, made hopeful again. Suddenly, undeniably, it was important – that these children should have the same chance, that Vincent might see and hear and know them …

“I told you,” Rosie proclaimed from a few seats over in the row in front of them. “Balk-a-Day Bob … he can’t get through a game without calling one. Tell me,” she demanded. “Tell me you understand the balk. Stand up and show me one, if you do.” Joe’s eyes sparked with the challenge. Catherine knew from experience he was irked almost as much by the balk as he was by the concept of the designated hitter or the Dodgers’ leaving Brooklyn for California.

Eimear bent to Catherine’s ear. “Is Joe easily overwhelmed?”

“Not usually,” she whispered. “But I have to ask. Does Rosie always dress like that?”

“Well, she is an artist, and she’ll tell you herself, her whole life is a canvas. She is a bit over-colorful today, but, bless her, she knows the kids love it. She shows them, I think, that it’s okay to stand out. They often huddle inside themselves, afraid to be noticed, for notice has delivered them misery before. We want them to know, to believe, that there’s good waiting to happen for them. Rosie’s all fun, but I have to say, purple and green together, okay, maybe even with the red, but purple, green, red, yellow and orange? And all those ribbons and the scarves! Ach, she gives me a headache, looking at her.”

“I do think Joe’s overwhelmed, but I also think he’s loving it.”

Eimear leaned out. “Oh, lord have mercy, she’s inspecting his fingers. I told you she’s a bit much.”

“What? She reads palms?”

“No, no. She photographs them. Palms and knuckles, close-ups. She has a whole wall of hands. And another of eyes with their laugh lines. A hallway full of feet, bare and shod. She’s relentless once she decides on a model. She’ll hound him ‘til he gives completely in.”

Catherine knew exactly what she would say to Joe about that, should it come to pass. Something about watching out for the arty types and what they try to talk you into or out of …

Ah!” Eimear clapped her forehead. “She’s asking him the question. I can read her lips. She must have a fair feeling about him, to ask so soon.”

Catherine laughed. “It looks like he’s answering, whatever the question is.”

“Oh, she’ll ask you too, don’t worry,” Eimear said, nudging her arm. “From you, she might get an answer she likes.”

“Aren’t you going to prepare me?”

“It’s more fun if you’re taken unawares. Besides, if I negate the surprise, she’ll hurt me. Do you have sisters or brothers, Catherine?”

“No … an only child.”

“We go back and forth, even now, each wanting to strangle the other. I don’t know whose turn it is. Surely it’s mine!” Eimear pulled napkins from her purse, enlisting her nearest charge pass them down the row. “Dad always called her his glimmerin’ girl and she is that.1  I love her, and who would I be without her, after all?”

A cheer went up from the stands; everyone around her leapt to their feet … save Eimear … who turned to her in their sudden hideaway with a brilliant smile. For a moment, it was just the two of them while the wild world clamored and jostled and swayed. Deep inside, a knowledge blossomed, a further truth. This outing was more than a lark, more than an impulsive holiday from work. As if a swirling mist cleared, she could see … the first meeting with Eimear and then the second, the familiarity of their connection, the serendipitous telephone call she’d made the morning before. Something was moving, changing within her, carving yet another facet on her heart. There was promise to the day. It warmed her, and she felt as if a great energy might be swirling nearby, that there was room and years enough for a huge and timeless life.2, 3

The crowd settled again to their seats, the excitement moderated … for most, but not for all. Catherine leaned forward again. Rosaleen was intent on Joe, her head inclined slightly toward him as he spoke, her expression encouraging and her eyes wide. And Joe was talking with his hands, animated and buoyant she could tell, the physical tension she’d noticed in his carriage the last weeks melted away. Something might change for him as well. Surely the great and swirling energy would encompass them all.

* * *

Vincent held the beam high over his head, straining to lever it into the notch Kanin had carved, while Mouse, perched on a stone outcropping, struggled to hold the other end steady. This last timber would span the new and secret passageway to the lower levels, the lynchpin of the entire plan. They’d changed the nearest entrance to the north, erected several false walls, installed a clever hidden doorway to the corridor. Soon they would move to the next point of concern, further into Van Cortlandt Park.

“Need a new pulley,” Mouse grumbled. “Stupid rope. Had to break. Asking Dominic.”

When at last he could lower his arms, Vincent sagged to a wearied crouch, then to his knees on a sharp intake of breath. His heart jumped under his palm.

Mouse scrambled down the wall, knelt at his side. “Vincent! What?”

“Catherine …,” he whispered. “She’s …” Near, he almost said, but she always was. Close was closer, and at that phrasing he chuckled.

Mouse lowered his brows, jutted his chin. “Vincent … laughing. She’s okay good, okay fine, then, right? Right?!”

“She is.” He spread his fingers across his breastbone. “I feel her, here. Her heart is light. She’s … happy.”

Kanin stood apart from them, half-turned away. He shoved his hammer into its belt loop. “Enjoying herself above, doing things you never will,” he muttered.

Kanin!” Mouse squealed. “Not nice! Mean!”

Vincent reached out, a quick touch to Mouse’s shoulder, and shook his head. “Leave it, Mouse.”

But …”

Vincent shook his head again and Kanin walked away, soon lost in the shadows of the tunnel.

“Mean!” Mouse repeated.

“Yet true enough,” Vincent said, but in the aura of Catherine’s joy it hardly mattered. In his mind’s eye, a sunlit path appeared in a thorny woods.

Mouse slid to the floor. Their backs against the wall, they rested there together until Kanin returned, his tense and burdened silence a cloud on their obligatory industry.

* * *

“So, did you know Jerry Koosman and Cleon Jones were gonna be there?” Joe pretended indignation, shaking oregano on his pizza with exaggerated concentration, folding the slice just so. “And how come every kid had the same magic word?”

“’Twas truly amazing, was it not,” Rosie said, “the announcement over the loudspeaker that two Miracle Mets were in the stands? And isn’t it easier to give them all the same word and then all the same prize. Cuts down on the arguments.”

“I was a little surprised when they all jumped up at once. I wouldn’t have thought they’d know who Koosman and Jones were.”

“I’m sure they don’t. Your clue came when they pointed at you and shouted ‘pizza’, right?”

“I thought they meant ballpark pizza. I figured I’d have to raid my retirement fund to pay for that.”

Brothers is their favorite place when we can manage a dinner out . We came here when we were little girls ourselves,” Eimear said. “A slice still isn’t too dear, but we’ll all chip in, you know. She was teasing you, that it was yours to pay.”

Oh, no,” Joe said, reaching for his wallet. “My treat.”

“I want to help,” Catherine chimed in. “Let me split that, Joe. I mean it.”

“There’s a Carvel just down the block,” Albie said. “We’ll go get an ice cream cake. Ernie won’t mind us having it here. We can bribe him with any that’s left over.”

 

The children shepherded to the restrooms, Rosaleen and Eimear stood in the hallway, counting heads going in, waiting to count them coming out. Catherine and Joe were left alone at the table. “Are you having fun?” She waited for his answer, then asked again, rapping the table for his attention. “Joe? Hello?

Hmmm, huh?”

“I said, do you want me to get a taxi home so you can … you know

“What’re you talking about?”

“Maybe you could take Rosaleen home.”

“What? No!  I, umm … She …” Joe picked up his empty glass, eyed it, set it down again. “Well, I don’t even know where she lives.”

“You could ask her.”

“No way, Radcliffe. That’s kinda forward, don’t you think?”

“No, I don’t think, under the circumstances.”

“Wha–”

“Mr. Maxwell? Ms. Chandler?” A soft voice stilled their banter. A little boy stepped between them, sliding a baseball card onto the tablecloth. “It’s not signed or anything, but we want you to have it.”Joe picked up the card. “Dave Magadan. Hey, he’s great. Look, Cathy.”

“You’ll have to share it,” Edward reminded him. “Oh, and thank you for the pizza. And for coming with us.”

Joe shook the small hand offered him. “You’re welcome, Edward. Very welcome.”

Catherine ruffled the boy’s hair. “We could go again one day. Would you like that?” He nodded, silent and serious, his expression a winging arrow to her heart. When at last she could tear her eyes from Edward’s face, when she could meet Joe’s gaze, she knew he felt the same. This was a beginning, a chance to make a difference where it was sure to count.

* * *

In the school parking lot, at Joe’s car, Catherine asked about the mirror in Rosaleen’s shop.

“Oh, it is,” she said. “It’s still there. Do you want another look?”

“My friend Jenny does. A gift for someone special.”

“Ah! And are you enjoying the Klein sculpture, Catherine?” Rosie raised her eyebrows. “Such a romantic, intimate piece.”

Umm, uh huh, I am.” She blushed and Joe raised his eyebrows.

“I think I need to see this shop.”

“Oh, I very much want you to come,” Rosaleen said. “That’s where my studio is, you know, and where you’d do your modeling.”

“Modeling?” Catherine turned to Joe, her arms folded.

Don’t start, Radcliffe.”

“Come by Saturday; I’m there all day. And Catherine, bring your friend. I can arrange to have that mirror moved if she wants it.” As she spoke, Rosaleen scratched words on a scrap of paper, the car’s hood her desk.

“And Saturday night, come to our house for dinner,” Eimear said. “Flynn’s cooking and we’re having a little ceilidh. Catherine, bring Jenny. I’m thinking I’d like her very much, since you do.”

Rosaleen pressed the note into Joe’s hand. “That sounds great to me,” he said.

Catherine smiled. The weekend had stretched before her empty and lonely. She’d expected to spend it in the office, insulating herself from worry with work, doing what she could when she could do so little. Missing him. “I don’t know about Jenny, but I’d love to come. What can I bring?”

“Since Flynn’s cooking, it’ll be boiled knuckle and liver and maybe some mashed neeps.” Rosaleen said, straight-faced. “So bring whatever you think might go well with that.”

“She’s joking! Rosie, stop that. Flynn’s making his specialty. Lasagna. Not a speck of knuckle in it, I promise.”

Catherine started to speak, but Joe cut her off, mid-breath. “That’s enough from you, Radcliffe. I know what you’re about to say, and it’s not true.”

* * *

Joe drove slowly down Katonah Avenue, idling at every traffic light with none of his usual impatience. As they passed the street where she’d seen Dominic’s van, Catherine’s heart fluttered. Was there a tunnel entrance near? Was he close? Would she know, would she ever know? But the van was no longer there and she couldn’t be sure at which business it had been parked. She couldn’t bolt from the car and wave Joe away, start knocking on doors. She took a deep breath and let go. Close was better than far; it had to be enough … for now.

At her building, Joe pulled in to the curb, and while Catherine gathered the jacket and briefcase she’d stowed on the back seat, he came around the car to open her door.

“What’s a neep, do you guess?” he asked, his hand out to help her.

“No idea. What’s a ceilidh?”

“Must be an Irish thing,” he said. “Well, Cathy. First thing tomorrow, we’re back to it.”

She dropped her satchel at her feet and reached out to him, searching his face for a moment. “It was a good day, Joe. We made … a connection. Between the two of us, with Rosaleen and Eimear, between us and the kids. Did you feel it?”

“Like something’s about to happen?”

“Yeah. Like that.”

He stared at her hand at rest on his arm. “But not between you and me, huh, Radcliffe.”

His words were softly spoken, but every word was clear.

He didn’t wait for her reply. “Can you, uhh, forget I said that?”

No. But … yes.”

“Friends? Me and you … a team?”

“Better than friends, Joe. Better than a team. Family.” Just for an instant, her grip tightened.

He covered her hand with his. “There’s … someone, isn’t there? You can tell me, you know.”

Can I?  But she had a question of her own and wasn’t it a rule? To never ask without knowing the answer first. How much, Joe? How much can you accept?

Several charged moments passed. Joe stepped back and raked his fingers through his hair. If he’d had one handy, she imagined he’d pull out his big rubber band and stretch it between his hands. “So, you think I should call Rosaleen? She’s … different.”

“I do. I think you should. Maybe even tonight. Different can be good, Joe. Very good.”

 

She flew to her balcony on reasonless hope, but hope nonetheless. It was just dark, more the gloaming, too early even if … There she lingered alone at the wall, replayed Joe’s words. His was a declaration more than a question, with none of Elliot’s incredulity, so … Joe.

There’s someone.

Not there’s someone else.

One small word’s distinction … She didn’t have to refuse him, reject him, hurt him. The awkwardness she’d anticipated … wasn’t. It wouldn’t be.

Time to go, she said to herself, closing the french doors behind her.

And indeed, Father welcomed her warmly into the library and shared tea with her, telling her of the crew’s progress right away, going on to an upcoming program the children planned for May Day. And then Jamie arrived and Rebecca, and they wanted to hear about her day, about the children, about Eimear and Joe and Rosaleen and about the magic word, about the pizza. Mary brought ‘round a pot of her special herbal tea, one that assured all partakers of a night of sweet dreams. She might have fallen asleep in her chair pulled so close to the brazier, but bed – their bed – called.

* * *

At the end of the long day, the tools again cleaned and ordered, Vincent walked into camp. He hoped to find Kanin, to take him into the narrow passage, through the hidden doorways to the stairs below the garden where music might be heard again, where Kanin might find comfort. But at the periphery of the crew, Kanin scowled, his arms crossed high on his chest. Cordoned off, Vincent thought, venturing close nonetheless.

“I’m sorry, Vincent. Sorry for what I said.” Kanin muttered his apology into his chest.

“I know that.”

“I don’t want to talk. Okay? Just–” With his fist, he beat a dirge’s rhythm against his thigh.

“Come with me, Kanin. There’s a hidden place of music we’ve found. Beautiful music. We could sit together and listen. Just … listen.” And if there’s no music, perhaps we might just … sit together. Sit in silence if you want. 

But no. He would accept no balm for his raw wounds. Kanin slipped away, further into darkness.

Vincent made one step after him and stopped, the pull of the dark, of isolation too familiar. Instead, he hurried alone, up a level, then another, another, through the last tunnel to the stone steps, climbing closer this time, nearer the barred door … to hear another concert just as beautiful, just as melancholy. Night birds sang from the flute, calling out to far-flung loves, flying through bent and ancient trees, across the barren hills to the sea. He closed his eyes and knew…

She was home.

 

________________

Chapter Title: Rainer Maria Rilke. Rilke and Benvenuta: An Intimate Correspondence. Magda Von Hattenberg, editor. 1957.

Opening quotation: David Whyte. A Seeming Stillness. David Whyte – Essentials. 2019.

1. William Butler Yeats. The Song of Wandering Aengus. 1899.

2. Rainer Maria Rilke. You, Darkness. 1903.

3. Rainer Maria Rilke. Book of Hours, #4. 1903.

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