The Tunnel Hop
By Cindy Rae
It wasn't that she was afraid of falling.
For all Catherine Chandler had been through in the last ten days, and for all she knew she had yet to face, (and "face" was a particular word right now, with Catherine), it was that even on the walk back up, even on the road to safety, here it was. One more obstacle. One more moment where a misstep had the potential to hurt her, badly. Maybe even worse.
Somewhere in between the words of Great Expectations and the words of "I was born... I survived," she'd realized how much "chance," simple "chance" was now directing her life.
Catherine Chandler was not a "chance directs your life" kind of woman.
Women raised in wealth (and a very particular kind of wealth at that) rarely are.
Many of the people and things in Catherine's life (from her playmates to her pre-school to her evening gowns) were very, very carefully chosen. Chosen from only the finest, of course.
Her law degree was a Law Degree. Radcliffe. Columbia. Then a position that was a Position at her father's firm. She'd never been a law clerk, or an intern. She was the boss’ daughter, and her office was only slightly less impressive than Charles’ own. She'd inherit the firm, one day. She'd inherit much more than that, one day.
She shopped at Saks and Neiman Marcus. Her purses were from Coach and her jewelry was from Cartier's. All carefully, meticulously selected, of course. (Both the stores and the items that came home with her.)
Her apartment overlooked Central Park. Well of course it did. A graduation present for having chosen success over failure. Her rather unimpressive class ranking (which in a way, was "chosen" as well, as her friends teased that she'd graduate with a degree in "fashion law") mattered not so much as her impressive degree. And her pedigree.
She'd chosen much of it, and she'd chosen it carefully. Which restaurants to dine in, and with whom. Which hairstyle framed her delicate features to best advantage. Which shoes gave her height, which coats kept her both warm and stylish.
Catherine's life was a series of well-orchestrated choices, ones made by her, her parents, and sometimes, her boyfriends.
When the latter began making questionable ones of those (Stephen), they were jettisoned for different ones (Tom).
When the work became too boring, there was always the choice of running errands until noon.
Her friends Nancy and Jenny were perhaps not so much "chosen" (for who can say about the instant spark that sometimes flares to life between two girls who become women together - and stay close), but it was true that they were selected from among the list of people who frequented the same clubs, schools and neighborhoods that the Chandlers did. The best. The very best. The “chosen” best.
So, somewhere in between "Great Expectations" beginning and "I survived," Catherine was struck just by how much "choice" had not been a part of this.
This was "chance." She'd replayed her attacker's words, waking and (horrifically, once) sleeping. "Carol." He'd called her "Carol" as he'd mutilated her. Chance. Dumb luck. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time, looking like the wrong girl. A random moment with shattering consequences, and Catherine Chandler's well-orchestrated, carefully arranged, meticulously “chosen” life was... no more.
And now, this. This wide gap that threatened to either block her path, or engulf her purpose.
He’d guided her this far, encouraging.
For the last ten days, words of encouragement from him, every day:
Try not to be afraid.
You must eat, to regain your strength.
I have more of the tea you like. Can I help you sit up?
You're feeling better, today, getting stronger. Shall I read to you, some more?
Catherine. You survived. And what you endured will make you stronger. And better.
You have the strength, Catherine. You do. I know you.
That voice. That amazing, deep, soft, gentle, voice. And hers in question, trying to discover where, oh where chance had cast her?
What is this place?
And Vincent's reply, not so much about "place" as about “purpose.”
We live here… and we try to live as well as we can. And we try to take care of each other.
All of it had been fluttering around inside her, looking for a place to settle. Like a lost, wind-tossed bird, looking for a branch, for purchase. Much of it had been moving around inside her before she’d seen his face. (There was that word, again.) Some of it, after.
What you’ve endured will make you stronger. And better.
I don’t know if I have the strength. She remembered her reply.
You do. I know you.
To take care of others. To “try to live as well as she could.” Not just materially, or socially, but in other ways…
How much more would that mean for her life, if she could do it?
How much more would her life mean to her? How much more, for the lives of everyone she touched, if he was… right? If he was right about … her?
You have the strength. He’d sounded so certain. Like he could see inside her to places she couldn’t.
I don’t know what to believe.
It’s all true.
And so here she was, walking a path that led back to her old life. A life she suspected was now forever changed. And here was a gap, a small chasm in the "road."
He was guiding her. Was there a time, in the last ten days, when he hadn’t been doing that? We try to take care of each other. As best we can.
He crossed the chasm. An easy leap. To both lead her and to show her that it could be done.
“Wait,” she called out to him.
For just the jump? Or for everything that might come, after?
He reached his hand back for her. His hand. The first part of him she’d ever touched, as he’d fed her. The part of him he offered her, now.
"You can do it. Give me your hand." He sounded so sure. Always so sure. Of her.
She took his hand, trusting. Of course she did.
No, Catherine Chandler wasn't afraid of falling.
She was afraid part of her, a part she was nowhere near ready to acknowledge yet, already was.
Dedicated to the amazing Talent of Sandy Chandler Shelton, a woman I never knew but who still inspires me.
Anniversary celebration, 2014
Author’s Note: To be a newcomer to a fandom is no small thing. It gives an almost wondrous ability to feel not so much like “Beauty,” cast into a magical tunnel world, but like Alice, cast down the rabbit hole.
Each spot, each site, each story, each piece of beauty crafted by all of you, each idea and inspiration is another part of a ‘Wonderland’ waiting to be discovered.
Each “Welcome” is a gift. And each of the gifts are welcome.
Anyone new to the fandom understands this, or remembers it when it was their turn to look through things that were “curiouser and curiouser.”
One of the things you can’t help but “discover” as you wander among the wonders, is Chan.
I might miss “this” story or “that” site, or even accidentally overlook an amazing author, but Chan? Chan you can’t avoid, thank Providence.
For Chan was surely meant to be.
Discovering she’d passed was a sorrow to my heart. I miss a lady I never met, and if I wander among her beautiful drawings for long minutes of an afternoon, I miss her a little more. Then I click on a link that takes me to something like a young Vincent taking a bath, and I have to smile. Broadly. What a talent. What a gift. What amazing gifts she gave to all of us.
If I could give her this gift of a little vignette, I would. But since I can’t, I don’t think she’d mind if I dedicate it to her, even though we never knew each other.
And I surely don’t think she’d mind if I shared it with you.
After all, this is the tunnels. We live together, help each other, take care of each other as best we can.
As best we can.
For the show that changed all our lives, forever.
Happy Anniversary, Beauty and the Beast.
September 25, 2014