Vincent’s face was a study in candlelight. He held the oblong crystal between his fingers, rolling it slowly, feeling the slight edges of the facets. He noted the glow of the refracted light as he held it up to the candle flame. His breath stopped, snatched by the beauty of the reflecting crystal. So like Catherine’s beauty that often made it difficult to breathe, this crystal would gleam lovingly against her skin, enhancing her beauty rather than competing with it.
He was considering the crystal as his gift to her marking the anniversary of their meeting: April 12th. He scarcely believed it had already been a year’s time, how swiftly it passed. This gift came from his seeking out what most Below considered as Narcissa’s creative boasts – the Crystal Caverns. But he made the trek, and brought back the proof. Mouse produced a setting befitting the stone, and he now admired it even as he deliberated whether he should give to Catherine or not. Was it the right gift?
He knew the custom of gift-giving to mark celebrations, and an anniversary was such a celebration. But the type of gift was a separate consideration. How personal should it be? What does the gift tell the recipient? Is that message the correct one? Whatever the message, everyone Below would know it every time she wore it, whereas those Above would be none the wiser.
He deliberated at length over the past week. He consulted the men who were married or had been married, or were seeing someone. What type of gift would they give for a first anniversary? The tradition, apparently, was paper. A drawing, perhaps, he could do. Or maybe the storage room held an undiscovered treasure of a picture already framed, but that was not likely. And then, it registered. He was thinking in terms of marriage anniversaries – he and Catherine were not that. What they were, well, that was still being slowly worked out between them. But he still felt it important to mark the occasion.
So many questions. Were he any other man, there would be no questions. But he was not any other man. He was not a man, but a beast. He had more qualities of a man than beast, he thought, except he really didn’t know. Uncertainty is hard to bear in yourself. It is next to impossible to ask someone else to take it on. He wished so much for her – her courage to take her wherever she wished to go, and to do those things that gave her fulfillment and pleasure. He questioned whether she could do those things and be in a relationship with him.
Ah, but there’s the heart of it. Were they in a relationship? Or was it a deep friendship? If it were friendship, this crystal might convey the wrong message to her, leading her to believe they were in a relationship. Is this what he wanted to convey? He rotated the crystal against the light, watching where the light flickered.
He loved her. That wasn’t in question. He closed his eyes, and the vision of her face appeared in his mind’s eye. He inhaled deeply as he rested on that vision. He saw that face as it gazed lovingly at him as she read Wordsworth’s Surprised by Joy after rescuing him from the scientist’s lab. The words she didn’t say sounded louder by the look she gave him than the poem’s words which fell softly from her mouth.
She had told him it was love that compelled her to the lengths it took to rescue him and Father when the tunnels collapsed. And as she stood, resplendent in the borrowed kimono for Henry and Linn’s wedding, when vows were spoken, she looked at Vincent with such hope and longing that this ceremony could be a possibility for them. He, too, allowed himself to dream of such a time with Catherine.
He felt her heart. He felt the warmth whenever he was near her. He held two diametric feelings in his mind and heart – his heart beat with love for her as his mind thought “let her be in her own world.” Father often encouraged the mind; his heart gained strength with every beat and moment with her.
He had shown her his love in keeping her safe, in the poems he chose for her, and the little things he did for her when they spent their measured time together. But he had yet to say the words. A reason, yet unknown even to him, held him back. Would the crystal say he loved her? Was it going further than he felt comfortable going?
It’s only been a year. He lived Below thirty some years; she had only known him and visited Below a handful of times in one year. His head bent in defeat. The voices in his head clamored “too soon.”
Yet in a moment, another voice filled his heart: “she is yours, you are hers, let destiny be ordained.” His head snapped up. Where did that come from? The words resonated in a surprising way for one so cautious. He was hers. And just as surely, she was his. He knew a message that spoke of more than friendship would make her happy. She would not expect it, having learned caution from him during their togetherness. If she didn’t expect, she could not be disappointed. He smiled, thinking of the reception of this gift.
It was settled, both in mind and heart. This was the gift; this was the night. He stood, carefully securing the necklace in an inner vest pocket. He adjusted the collar of his best shirt to display better over the vest he wore, and added his cloak.
He suddenly was very impatient for this evening to begin.