NIGHT VIEW, 2004,
by Sandy Chandler Shelton
 

inspired the following vignette:


SOME KIND OF WONDERFUL
Aliset

 

August. A hot sticky miasma hung over the city, forcing a good many helpers into the cooler reaches of the tunnels. Vincent leaned back in his chair, feeling the rise of Catherine's tensions within their bond. Her trial wasn't going well, he knew---witnesses who didn't want to testify, victims who didn't want prosecution, and many late nights as a result as she tried to hold her case together by sheer force of will. "Vincent, are you sure you want to go above in this heat?" Father asked, looking at him askance from the other side of the chessboard, the game long since over.

"Catherine needs me," Vincent said simply, and resolutely hung his cloak back on its hook. He wore a dark shirt and vest and denim jeans and hoped the concealment provided by night and shadow would suffice; it was far too warm to attempt any physical exertion swathed in a woolen cloak.

"Why don’t you ask Catherine to come below? There are other helpers down here; surely she’d be more comfortable."

Vincent shook his head. "No. I’ve asked her. She’s working on a difficult case and fears she wouldn’t be able to concentrate."

"But it’s so late. Surely she’s asleep?"

"No, she’s not. She hasn’t been sleeping well since this trial started."

The tight lines around Father’s mouth spoke of all the objections he wasn’t voicing. Instead, he let out a small sigh. "Very well, then. But…be careful, will you?"

"I will, Father," Vincent murmured, kissing the older man on the head.

***

Some minutes later, Vincent reached the landing of Catherine’s balcony. It was much as he’d feared: not only was she still awake but her tense posture showed the strain of far too many worries and not nearly enough solutions. He rapped gently on the glass and saw her start at the sound. "Oh, Vincent, I didn’t think you’d come to see me in this heat," Catherine murmured as she opened the balcony doors. The unnatural frigidness of air conditioning rushed out to meet him.

The sweat trickled between his shoulder blades. "You won’t come below so…" he shrugged. "The mountain came to Mohammad."

She laughed. "Well, thank you. I’m glad you're here…won’t you come inside? It’s much cooler."

With only a small bit of hesitation, he stepped inside her apartment. The chill air was welcome after the sweltering heat. "Can I get you something to drink?" Catherine asked.

"No, Catherine, I---" Vincent began, as the lights flickered and died. The hum of the air conditioning gave a feeble sigh before it, too, was silent.

"Power outage," Catherine said out of the darkness. "Not surprising, as hot as it is."

"Do you still keep matches in your kitchen drawer?" Vincent asked.

"Yes, and candles too, but I can’t see anything. Which probably wasn't the best plan," she said wryly.

He touched her hand. "Don't worry. I can see." He walked into the kitchen, fumbled in the drawer for the matches and found also a solitary candle. He placed the lit candle inside a juice glass and returned to sit next to her.

"I wonder how long it’ll be until the power comes on," Catherine said as she nestled against him. The small flame from the candle flickered, casting overgrown shadows.

Her worries thrummed through their bond like a current. Vincent glanced outside the balcony window, at the surprising dark of a city without any power. Perhaps he could coax some magic out of this night and maybe---maybe---bring some ease to the woman he loved. "Catherine, would you like to take a walk?"

"Why? In this heat?"

"There’s something I’ve wanted to show you…but I never could in the city; the lights would drown it out."

"I’m intrigued," she replied. "Lead on."

***

"I don't even know how we got here," Catherine said, gazing at the rooftop ledge. "Which building is this?"

All she could see clearly was the flash of white---Vincent, smiling. "It's a mystery, Catherine. Let's...enjoy it."

She grinned back at him, delighting in his sense of fun, the mischief in his voice. "The ledge isn't narrow," Vincent continued, "but if you’ll let me guide you..."

Catherine reached for him, the claws Vincent had so despised gentle against her skin. "I’d follow you anywhere," she said quietly.

She felt his smile through their bond---a pleased, warm sensation. There was a faint rustling sound---Vincent's hand brushing the dirt off the concrete, perhaps. He drew her down beside him. "Look at the sky, Catherine and tell me what you see."

She tilted her head back and gazed in the direction he was looking. Catherine gasped. "Vincent, it’s a meteor shower!"

"The Perseid shower, yes," Vincent replied. "Every August it comes, but we could never have seen it before."

Another small ball of light began to fall, dissolving in the night. It was followed by others, streaking the star-strewn sky with little fizzes of light. Catherine thought of all they would have missed seeing had it not been for the power outage and sighed, happy and relaxed for what felt like the first time in weeks. She tilted her head back to look in the general direction of his face. "Thank you for showing me this. I would have hated to have missed it."

His arm enclosed her, bracing her, protecting her. "I'm glad we were able to see it. I've seen pictures but...the reality doesn't come close." A pause, then, "Can you...see the stars clearly in Connecticut?"

Connecticut. A word so potent for the both of them. "Yes," Catherine said carefully. "My dad and I used to sit on the roof and watch them through his telescope." Her hand reached for his. "Why are you asking me this now?"

"I am reminded," he said softly, "that without the power outage, we would never have climbed to this roof together to watch the meteor shower. And I wonder how many other chances I've let pass by because of my own fears, my worries."

Her eyes watered; she blinked the tears away. "Connecticut will be lovely in two weeks, when my trial is over."

"Two weeks, then," Vincent said as they watched the stars fall.

 

 


 

 

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