“Thank you again so much for making this possible, Harry,” said Catherine as she shook the snow off her coat. “Please tell Paul I said thank you, as well.” Catherine could not express her gratitude to the two guards enough for allowing her to share this night in a special place with Vincent.
“We’re so glad to be able to do this for Vincent on his birthday,” said the museum guard smiling at the couple standing before him. “Happy birthday, Vincent!” said Harry as he caught Vincent in a bear hug.
“Thank you, Harry,” said Vincent gratefully.
“Take your time and enjoy yourselves. We’re short staffed because of the snowstorm and the bug that’s been going around, so Paul and I are the only ones on duty tonight.” Catherine couldn’t believe their luck with this turn of events. She wanted to be able to make the most of this precious time with Vincent.
Earlier, William had prepared a wonderful feast for the tunnel community to celebrate Vincent’s birthday. Catherine had spoken to Father about her surprise for Vincent prior to the festivities. Being Father, he initially protested against the very idea of such an outing for his son. She allayed his fears somewhat by informing him that she had planned this very carefully with two Helpers who worked as security guards at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Mouse had shown her a little-used access point to the Tunnels near enough to the museum. Even if she and Vincent were to be seen by strangers at that late hour before they could meet Harry at the appointed side entrance into the museum, in this kind of weather no one would look twice at the tall individual shrouded in the hooded cloak walking beside her.
As she led him through the stillness, Catherine could barely contain her excitement at being able to share this with Vincent. There were two exhibits that she especially wanted to show him. They came to a stop in a corner of the gallery in front of a Van Gogh painting of two sunflowers.
“Vincent,” she said softly, “Isn’t it beautiful?” When she had last seen this painting months ago and her eyes fell on the artist’s signature, she could not help but think of another bearing the same name who had also lived a life of isolation. Gazing at the brilliance of colors before her filled her with the same warmth and searing joy that threatened to burst from her chest whenever she thought of Vincent.
Sensing Catherine’s response to the painting through the Bond, Vincent’s thoughts drifted to another of Van Gogh’s works that filled him with similar feelings. When he first looked upon a picture of “Starry Night over the Rhone” in a book in Father’s library years before he found Catherine, its quiet beauty held him rapt yet pained him at the same time. But now, when he looked upon the couple walking arm in arm by the water’s edge, he no longer felt despair. Instead, his heart swelled with the hope and infinite promise that Catherine’s love provided him. He gazed at Catherine’s smiling face and wondered at the blessing that made it possible for him to behold beauty around him with a purity of joy that was no longer marred by an accompanying sense of aloneness.
“There’s one more thing I very much want to show you before we have to go,” Catherine said. Holding his hand, she led Vincent towards one of her favorite exhibits in the Egyptian wing of the museum. She remembered coming to this wing of the museum on numerous occasions as a child and asking her father to lift her up into his arms so that she could get a closer look at the quartzite lion cub through the Plexiglas. As they came to a stop in front of it, she gazed down at the cub and felt a curious pang go through her. It was dearer to her than ever now that it symbolized, in a way, a secret hope that she had for their future together. Gazing down at it while hand in hand with the man she loved more than any being on this earth, she found that the sudden depth of emotion that now flooded through her and through the Bond made her throat tighten, leaving her incapable of speaking. All she could do was squeeze his hand.
She felt Vincent draw her closer to his side and put his arm around her shoulders. As her eyes filled with tears, she felt him press his lips tenderly to the top of her head after she wrapped both of her arms tightly around his waist and buried her face against his chest.
“Thank you for sharing this with me, Catherine,” Vincent whispered.
“Happy birthday, Vincent.”
Thank you, Vincent, for allowing us to dream. Happy birthday.
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