inspired the following vignette:
“Do you mean that you could easily climb… say… a tree like this?” he said, looking up at the closest tree lining the path they were leisurely walking, and then back to her impish face.
She chuckled. “Of course.”
He said nothing, and she openly laughed. “Speechless, huh?”
The moon was enormous, once more, and cast the long dark shadows of the trees across the alley. They both loved their full moon strolls in the park, a magical time, not exactly daylight, not quite dark. The smells, the noises, the night, the stars… the moon. Their special moments together. Vincent knew Central Park like the back of his hand, and he greatly enjoyed taking her around and showing her the hidden beauty which had been his solace for so many years. Hand in hand, in the welcoming shadows, never in danger thanks to his uncanny skill to sense and master their surroundings, they had discovered much of the Park in those nights. And much of each other.
“I cannot imagine you as a tomboy.”
“A tomboy? No, that’s not me. It’s just that I always liked to test myself, even as a child. I took it as a challenge. Poor Dad! But it was a lot of fun!”
He took another step or two, and then stopped, their interlaced hands causing her to stop as well in mid-stride. He looked at her, and then up to the imposing tree on their left, a gigantic oak, a half smile on his face.
Before he could look at her again, Catherine had already taken the challenge, and was running to the trunk, “Ha! See you at the top!”
And so it began.
Among the many unbelievable things that made her life unique, this new twist was especially joyous. Their full moon walks in the park now frequently included the climb of a beautiful tree. Often a race, which she usually won but she was sure he let her, and it made her terribly mad. “Don’t!” she would pout – “I didn’t!”, he would invariably reply, with that innocent countenance. Grrr! Only once, when she’d chosen a smaller tree, where she could take advantage of her slender and lighter body, she was fully sure she’d beaten him. Ha! And that other time when…
The elegant weeping cherry tree they were climbing was completely white with spring blossoms. Almost like entering a cloud… wonderful. She was settling down in the spot she had deemed the highest snuggling place, which was the agreed goal of their races, and was waiting for him, anticipating the pleasure of enjoying together the magic of the cloudy whiteness which surrounded them, when suddenly she’d found herself held from behind in his tight embrace, a hurried and alarmed “Shhh!” whispered close to her ear. Now, her stubborn mind’s first thought was that evidently he could move among those darn branches much more quickly and silently than he had so far, the scoundrel, so he did let her win; then, she wondered what caused him to hush her. She obediently kept quiet, and a few moments later, she could hear the voices of two men, two young men, slightly thick, slightly slow, utterly annoying. Laughing and wobbling, they plopped down at the base of their cherry tree, and proceeded to… do whatever they’d better do somewhere else. Grrr!
“Vincent! This is our place!” she mouthed almost without sound, knowing he would hear all the same.
“The attic, anyway,” he replied into her ear.
“Grrr!” he playfully echoed.
A little silence. “Do it again.”
“Do it again. Louder.”
Another silence. And then she could feel his chest against her back vibrate with a soft chuckling. She couldn’t help smiling herself.
At the base of the tree, one of the voices had started a shrieking lament that perhaps was supposed to be a song, the rhythm being kept, well, more or less, with what probably was a beer can against one booted foot. The beer spilled, and both voices cursed.
“C’mon! Do it!”
“I don’t even know if I can do it… without some provocation.”
“Isn’t this provocation enough!? They’re spoiling our Full Moon Night!”
His chest again shook with restrained laughter, and then she could feel him take a deep breath… and dissolve in muffled chuckles. She started to giggle too.
“Hey, what’s that noise?” came from the base of the trunk.
She punched him in the chest with her elbow: “Do it!” she hissed, and a slow growl began close to her ear. Unable to suppress her delighted laugh, she quickly turned to bury her mouth into his chest.
“Whoa… You hear that, man?!”
Her laughter grew uncontrollable, while he, holding her tight, let his growl expand and become an awful, menacing roar that filled the ethereal cloud of cherry blossoms.
“Ahh! What the… ?”
Only Vincent’s extraordinary balance prevented them from falling from their nest, shaken as they were with wild laughter while the two intruders ran for their life.
And naturally, after the trees came the rooftops.
It happened while saying goodbye to Henry and Lin at the end of a pleasant night spent at their place: on a whim, he asked her to join him on the return trip via the same way he had arrived, the fire escape. And the discovery of New York from an exciting new perspective began. Yes, many unbelievable things made Catherine’s life unique, but this was especially unbelievable, and especially secret. Vincent could offer her something nobody could imagine, something only he could provide, extraordinarily thrilling and immeasurably cherished. Nobody knew it, not Father (God forbid!), not their friends Above or Below, only them.
And tonight, there they were, on the concrete cornice of a rooftop in front of her balcony. He’d casually mentioned the comment of one of the tunnel children during a class on Dickens; their thoughts immediately flew to Great Expectations, left in that same spot where now they were cozily seated, on his spread-out cloak, on a warm summer night. The intimate conversation that followed brought him to reveal a sweet secret: after she’d returned to her life Above, many nights he’d been watching her, perched on a certain cornice that was a perfect vantage point to see her balcony, wondering how she would react if…
Her heart had melted. “Oh, Vincent! Where?”
He had pointed. An intense glance was exchanged, and it had been enough. The spread-out cloak forgotten on the floor, in minutes they were headed there.
Her balcony was on their right, far away but perfectly visible, and it was touching to think of him, solitarily sitting on this cornice, dreaming impossible dreams…
She snuggled closer, happily leaning back into his broad and solid chest, feeling safe and crazy. His arm held her close, powerful and gentle, and she bestowed a kiss on his wrist.
“You’re smiling,” he said. “Thinking again if only Mr. Maxwell could see you?”
She giggled. “No, I’m thinking that the concept of impossibility is vastly overestimated.”
“I could not agree more.”
“And I’m thinking that we have a problem.”
“My left shoe just fell.”