Beyond the Stained Glass



Author’s Note: written originally for Batbland’s March 22nd, 2012 celebration, Chan’s lovely artwork – Nightview – our inspiration. The story reads better if you first see the drawing, but Chan’s work can only be posted with permission – so do click the link. This version has been revised to better fit the arc. 


and the reason that i laugh and breathe is oh love and the reason that i do not fall into this street is love


A 4th of July story, sequel to The Thing With Feathers


She emerged from the taxi parkside, and rather than dash across the street, she withdrew to the deeper shadow offered by the boundary wall overhung with leafy branches. Could she but see it, above, she knew, was a sky of summer stars.

Could she but see him, stories-high, disguised by darkness, Vincent waited for her. This, too, she knew.

The light at 73rd changed. The only pedestrian in the crosswalk, she slowed as she passed over the grate, spurred to the sidewalk by the blare of a horn. The driver of the turning car thunked his forehead twice with his palm and rolled his eyes. She couldn’t make out her balcony even had she chanced to glance up, but she sensed … awareness, his stride from one lookout to another, watching for her. Watching over her.

The newsstand on the next corner was still open, a bare fluorescent bulb burning brightly white inside. She stepped up to the window.

“So this is it, yeah?” the man behind the counter mumbled, his chin sunk to his folded arms. “Need a paper?” “I guess not.” She studied the candy shelves. Ah, two left. “But I will take those,” she said, pointing to a tiered display on the back wall.

The man pushed two purple packages of Jolly Joes across the countertop. “Bribe or apology this time?”

“Both,” she replied, grinning. “I’m likely to be late tomorrow and I want Friday off and next Monday too.”

He waved away her five-dollar bill. “Gonna miss you, Miz Chandler.”

“I’ll miss you too, Dhan.”

 She turned from the kiosk, and before she took three steps toward her building, she heard the rumble of metal gates, the convincing snick of a serious padlock. He’d stayed open late, she realized, to say goodbye.

In the entry, Roger stood against the open door. A grim couple barreled through from the lobby, both of them checking their watches, forcing her flat to the jamb. Roger huffed his disapproval at their backs and reached for her elbow, guiding her to a less-trafficked place. His smile didn’t quite reach his eyes.

“I don’t know what to say, Miss Chandler,” he said, turning his stiff cap in his hands. “I’ve had a feeling for a while you’d be moving. It won’t be the same without you around. You’re a good one.”

She rose up on her toes to buss his smooth cheek. “I’ll be back often enough. I sold my apartment to a friend, remember.”

“I met her. She seems like a nice lady.”

Was he blushing? “She is. She’ll need an introduction to the neighborhood, to the city really. I’m counting on you.” Catherine reached out, touched the braiding on his coat-sleeve. “My new place isn’t that far away. I hope you’ll come see it. It’s kind of a mess right now – all the construction – but I have a kitchen of sorts, and there’s a courtyard where I like to have breakfast. If you come early enough, it’s still quiet.”

“I’ll bring the bagels, those sesame ones you like from H&H.” Roger offered and tried another smile. He patted her hand. “How’m l gonna keep the old ticker going without you to bump up the heart rate, running out to the park all hours of the night. Maybe I’ll put in for the day shift after all.” He pocketed the change of address card she handed him, looked away toward the street where a cab pulled up to the curb. “You take good care, now,” he said, making a show of situating his hat, touching its brim.

Once alone in the elevator, she preened before the polished brass trim, a golden but frustrating mirror. She fluffed her hair, tapped her foot. Her nose pressed practically to the divider, she darted through the just-opening doors, her keys ready. Inside her apartment, she dumped everything she carried where the couch had been earlier that morning. Skirting the last stacked cardboard boxes, she sprinted for the balcony and the shadow shifting there.

This house of you,” he whispered … and she was undone.1


His arm was around her shoulders; her hip to his iron thigh, the slow rise and fall of his rib cage moving against the swell of her breast. How perfectly she fit, lodged in the landscape of him, the forge of his heat a strange alchemy fashioning one from two. She nuzzled her cheek to the quilted softness of his summer vest, the shapeliness of his chest, the surety of safety, the promise of tomorrow, of forever …

“This has been our vantage point, Catherine. And now …”

“We’ll always have it. Here,” she said, her hand spread at her heart. The stutter she felt was surely anticipation. Excitement. Not the gathering of tears.

“The most astonishing moments of my life …” Turning his back to the balcony’s railing, he pulled her close, his hands urgent at her waist. His gaze into her eyes was reverent … nearly.

She had to look away. “You promised. Once. It’s now or–”

He laid one finger against her lips. “Don’t say never, Catherine, please. I’m truly … over that word.”


High above the city, she settled into his embrace, scootching her hips a little on the wide limestone ledge, wedging resolutely into the -V- of his legs, which for a moment tensed to hers. Mmmmm, she heard from low in his throat. She clasped his arm with both her hands, searched the northern distance. “Over there … can you see it?”

“I’d like to think so.”

“Tomorrow night …”

“Our new vantage point.”

“It’s beautiful here, up on the roof. Beyond it.”


“After you’d leave me, you’d sometimes …”

“Often.” The wind teased the black-green treetops below them in the park; the jeweled lamplights quivered. A swirling spiral swept the face of the building, when it reached them flirting with her skirt, mussing her hair. His arm tightened around her. “Don’t be afraid.”

“Oh, I’m not. I’m not at all afraid.” Delight sang through her. Was it the breeze, she wondered, or the resonance of their steady, mingling shine.2 

“Catherine! Don’t … don’t kick your feet. You’ll lose–”

And one shoe went sailing.

“From this height, someone could be injured …” He leaned just forward and together they watched the leather flat be caught in an eddying current, a black night bird silhouetted by the city-glow, swooping and tumbling out over the lake, dropping at last beyond to a dense thicket of shrubs and trees.

“Did it make it all the way to the Ramble?” she asked.

“I think it did.”

The second shoe soon followed suit, though it nosedived short of its predecessor.

“Did you hear a splash?”

His answer was a rumbling chuckle that sent shivers up her spine. Shivers of quiet joy … and mischief.

Carefully, she pulled in her bare feet. Silently but questioningly, he shifted to one knee, rose, helped her stand, held her steady against the granite facade as she oh, so slowly drew up her shirt, turning to follow the sweeping arc of silky fabric she soon let fly. 


Within the arched alcove of the false window, he’d layered bedding, mounded pillows. His cloak was spread, their ready cover. She smiled and the last wisp of lace took flight up, out, over the park and into the mystery.

The sky sparkled and blazed, buds into roses, spirals of silver, scatters of coppers and golds.

Such fireworks we make, we two, she whispered.3



Next in the Beyond the Stained Glass arc is That Which We Call a Rose, (rated a lighthearted and literary R+) 



e. e. cummings. supposing i dreamed this) …(IX) (title)
e. e. cummings. you being in love. (opening quote)
1. e. e. cummings. supposing i dreamed this. 
2. Charlotte Brontë. The Wood.
3. Amy Lowell. Fireworks. 1915.


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