“Write me a letter.”
“A letter, Catherine? Of what would I speak in this letter?”
“Oh … anything. Whatever you wish. Feelings …” The pauses were dramatic-long. The last word a whisper. “I would like to know your … feelings …”
Light kindled in her smile, sweet and warm and brilliant, and he thought it must be thus to have the sun shining full and bright upon his face.
“Will you write a letter to me?”
“Yes … but you must write first. I’ll reply.”
He feigned complaint with that. “It doesn’t seem fair.”
“Sure it is. I thought up the idea so I get to set the rules.”
“Ladies first. That’s a long honored rule.”
“This lady resigns her place so that the gentleman may have it.”
Charmed. He was charmed by her.
“Come on, Vincent. It will be enlightening … fun. It can be our Valentine gift to one another.”
He could hear it in her voice. She knew that last would win him and he knew he was eager to lose. Afraid. Willing. His heart … filled with her. It was still so new, after two years together. Two years. Not quite … together.
“We’ll share our letters on Valentine’s Day? I can’t give you mine and wait for your response … write to me while I write to you. The gentleman requests this of the lady.”
Forensic scientists do not study their data with any more intensity than she, he thought, as emerald eyes stared into his, the lawyer before him searching his ‘condition’ that she might work out a better compromise. There was none.
“Deal.” Without thinking, she kissed his chin, then spoke to rescue them both from the shock. “Come to your chamber and we’ll get what we need.”
“I know Valentine’s Day isn’t until tomorrow but …”
Holding her at the falls, sharing conversation, a picnic supper, just the two of them safe in his world … he didn’t want it to end. She chose to be there with him … he gathered the joy of that and settled it in his soul.
Surrendering to her enthusiasm, he let her tug him to his feet.
Catherine, at Valentine’s Day
The words rise up … a maelstrom of fear and daring … and I know you wait … for what I will say … for secrets my heart may unwrap for you this Valentine’s Day.
Feelings … you asked that I make a gift of my feelings. Part of me regrets our bond will not permit you entrance to my heart. It would be easier, in a way, for me, if you might look and see what you long to know … if I had no choice … easier than it is for me to find a way … the courage … to say …how much … I love you! There. It was not so hard. I love you, Catherine.
I’ve wanted you to know. Please believe that of me, the one so silent and reserved and controlled. You must sometimes rage at that … when I’m not paying attention, perhaps … when I prefer to think something at work has upset you. Have you been that clever, my Love, my Catherine? My heart?
Now you know my best secret. May I ask a favor … that you might make for me a place …for me alone … apart and away from memories of any life before we found one another …a place in your thoughts … in your heart? If I could know of such a place …where I could forever be with you …though life should part us soon …
Forgive me. I have no right to beg this. I should tip the page to the candle flame but you would stop me, slip it from my fingers. Once written, I must let you read it.
I offer you these words … my love comes with them, Catherine.
Vincent, my love
There. I’ve said it. You are my love. You are.
This is probably not the clever idea I thought it would prove to be. You’re going to be embarrassed. I know it. I can imagine your face as you read. But then, I don’t have to imagine. You agreed we would exchange letters here, today, and be present as each reads the thoughts – feelings – of the other. Definitely, not very smart …but … I NEED you to know …I can’t hide it, Vincent, not any longer. I keep so many secrets …
And I guess I want to know … if you love me. I don’t expect you to say it in your letter … you are deep in thought as you write. I’m afraid … but you will be kind, I know, and not hurt me … and you do care for me … I trust my instincts … it’s just that … it would be so … perfect … if you love me and if you could tell me. Oh, Vincent, when I think of the possibilities for us … if only there is …let there be … an …us.
I love you. You fill my heart. You are my soul. Please, please love me … Now I’ve done it. Can I accidentally move my hand to set this page ablaze before you can rescue it …?
Courage … go with courage and with … love. I can.
I’ll wait for you to finish writing.
I’ll wait for you, Vincent.
He felt her stop, capped his pen, and looked across the table to see her, eyes closed, hands hidden in her lap.
“Catherine, here is my letter.”
She focused on him, accepted the single sheet, then slid her writing over the scarred wood.
“Are you afraid?”
“Yes. Are you?”
“Do I have reason to be?”
“I think … yes, Vincent. But … I want you to know these feelings … as you’ve known so many others, as I’ve tortured you with so many others …”
“Will this be ‘torture’ then?”
“I hope not. Oh, I hope not.”
“Then we must trust … and … read.”
“Do you want to go first?”
His beautiful hand had written words that puddled and blended and came crystal clear and she began to cry. He came to her … so afraid of the tears … the nightmare they washed onto the shore of his heart. But she would always be first … in his life … in his remembrances … if they were to be all that was left to him.
“No. No. Vincent, you must read my letter …” She gestured him back to his chair but he reached over and took up the single page to read at her side.
The eve of Valentine’s Day is always special for them.
He has his coveted place, and she hers … a shared and happy life that spans … as only true love can … eternity.