This is a substantially rewritten story, the very first and very different version of which was composed (and posted) in response to this http://www.batbland.com/ story challenge: after the “incident” with Vincent in which Lisa got injured and Father sent her Above, what was going through her mind as she tried to sleep that night?
For nearly 30 years now I have been haunted by the episode Arabesque because of some very troubling questions it raises for me, the most disturbing of which I’ve never seen addressed in fan fiction. The questions, for me, are these: what, exactly, was the source of Father’s evident and profound guilt and unease around the very subject of Lisa? As offered by our beloved Roy Dotrice, Father’s reaction was far darker than mere sorrow or regret. Next: what epiphany, what inner light did the camera capture in young Lisa’s face as she completely forgot about her injury and her fear, and stared at Vincent and Father as if becoming aware of something she had never realized before, something that this viewer read in actress Kelli William’s face as hope— even joy? And most disturbingly: why did the shocking personality change Lisa endured—between the confident, centered, playful girl she was the last time Vincent saw her in adolescence, and the shaken, guarded, broken and very different adult-Lisa who flees to the tunnels 1) go unremarked in the episode and 2) go unremarked in fan fiction?
In any case I offer this piece and all my Lisa pieces as the introductory foundation of a larger explanation and exploration, of this heartbreaking change in Lisa’s entire way of being around other people, and her desperate, deliberate estrangement from the happy girl that Vincent had once known and loved with all his heart— and by whom he had been loved, with complete trust and abandon, in return.
* * *
If all else perished and he remained, I should still continue to be;
and if all else remained and he was annihilated, the universe would turn into a mighty stranger;
I should not seem a part of it.
~Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontë
She cannot sleep.
She lies rigid, her heartbeat crashing in her head, pulses of heat-lightning rage illuminating the unseen world inside her while all around her the close darkness of the narrow bed and small room threaten to suffocate her. It’s more than just the strangeness of the unfamiliar bed. It’s more than the unsettling silence where nattering pipes should be.
She is exiled. As if she were a demon, expelled. Cast out.
Worse. Far worse. Disowned.
You were the only father I have ever known but I was never your daughter, she thinks, willing back the tears that threaten. It was bad enough when she had been a wild child chafing at any and all restraint but as she had begun to come of age Father had been unable to hide his growing unease and distrust. You never wanted me and now you’re rid of me. You waited and watched us until at last we gave you your excuse.
So fast. It happened so fast. She tries to think.
At what precise moment had the love she longed for gone from never, ever– to too late?
Was it the moment Vincent had exploded at Father, fully prepared to fight him— fight him— fight Father!— in order to follow her?— in order to claim her, as, in disbelief, she had stopped mid-flight and come back, stock still in mute shock at the sudden stunning knowledge that Vincent did long for her as she longed for him, clumsily and roughly though he may have expressed it?
The Reverend Mother had tried to comfort her earlier tonight as she attended to Lisa’s shoulder in the mission’s small infirmary. Father might come around; it’s possible, the woman had suggested kindly. Because of what you have in common– Vincent’s happiness; it is so paramount to you both. No matter how angry he has been tonight, surely Father can see this too.
But things have been increasingly fraught with Father for some months now as he has observed the way that not only Vincent but other boys have begun to look at her– boys Above as well as Below, as it turns out. She finds it amusing, at first, but mostly repulsive, the earthier implications of the guilty gazes that shift away or drop altogether when confronted with her frank challenging stare-down. In truth, for the most part boys are simply insufferable, except for Vincent.
Except for Vincent. A changeling like herself, an oddity, cut from an alien cloth, stronger, stranger, deeper, rare. Vincent is proof that she was meant to survive her unsurvivable beginnings. Vincent is her people, her pack, her family, her home. Vincent is home. The only one she’s ever had, from the moment she saw his face.
But Father has strongly discouraged this connection between them for as long as she can remember, because you believe I am not good enough for Vincent, she thinks. You never have. But you have not convinced Vincent. Not yet.
Lisa knows it’s the same for Vincent; from the very start, when in one another’s presence they have flowed effortlessly together along all the hurting, raggedy edges of their otherness to became one shining new creature, a shimmering whole, subject only to itself.
More than that, she knows, in ways she will never articulate even to herself, that Vincent is the only person she will ever be able to love in this way.
Because other people are confusing and so casually cruel; everyone but Vincent. Others are so quick to scold and condemn, disturbed by her craving for velocity. They wish to cage her, to starve her of flight, and she knows too well that without Vincent, without the way he holds her in his gaze and always has– containing her completely yet offering her untethered reach– she would have died. It’s more than her awareness that he truly sees her and loves this wild thing she is. When he looks at her she knows there is a place for her in this world and in that place she is clean, and whole, and beautiful…
And a dancer.
For it is Vincent who bartered his dearest treasures for the music box he brought her when she first arrived in the tunnels, sickly and frail, battered and burned, crawling with lice and unable to speak. It is Vincent who taught her to use music to ease her tortured little body free of its scarred and painful strictures while she slowly healed, supporting her under her arms, resting her tiny burned feet atop his furred ones then slowly circling the room to the music so she could feel what it was to move through space freely– to dance. When the music box wound down to silence, she would cling to Vincent and issue ear-splitting shrieks until anyone within earshot rushed to wind it up again, cursing Vincent (inwardly, if Father were nearby, or out loud, if not) for having ever presented her with it.
And now, years later, willowy and lithe, it is she who leads, and Vincent who follows, or attempts to. His lack of dancing prowess has over these past several months become frustrating in a new and exciting way. Something about the growing solidity of his frame against hers, and his soulful, silent concentration on her movements, puts her in a kind of trance and in spite of herself she finds herself yearning for that awkward bump of the hip, for a jostle or misstep bringing him full-weight against her, for the warmth of his arm— or chest, or back— against her newly-sensitive breasts, for free-roaming tendrils of his fragrant mane to slide across her face; for endless tender collisions, his increasingly muscled legs tangled up with hers.
Though Vincent seemed shyly oblivious to his effect upon her, even the anticipation of such touches sent chimes of desire ringing through her and she had begun to imagine how it would be, to be with him. She would fantasize about tender, feather-light half-embraces, naturally flowing from each improvised pas de deux, gently, sweetly, building eventually to the first soft slow kiss on the cheek…
She could close her eyes anytime anywhere and see it clearly, each kiss lingering a little longer than the one before, a little more open, inviting, encouraging. She knows he loves her back; he must simply be waiting for permission, some unmistakable sign from her.
She must fly back to the tunnels— tonight— now—and tell him, to be certain. Make sure Father was safely abed, and anyone else who would, on Father’s orders, try to stop her; and then fly to Vincent, wake him with her touch, and tell him at last of everything she has imagined, show him her secret vision for the two of them, spin for him the miraculous and intricate tapestry that will be their lives together, show him how she will bring back the whole world to him, experiences, treasures, stories, delicacies; how delicious it will be for them to have a foot, as it were, in both worlds— so rich and extraordinary a twinned life, so adventurous and exhilarating a career that will take her out into the world again and again to grab up great armfuls of life and bring it all back home to him to say thank you for giving me my life. Thank you for giving me your love. I will give you everything and more.
She must run to him now, this minute, before it is too late.
She will, this time, without modesty or fear let him take her in his arms, let him devour her with kisses if he likes, let him take her, let him take everything she has to give him, her body and her soul and they will have something no one can ever take away again.
And if after they have come together as one, after breath and skin and hunger and love have joined them forever, what if he says no? no don’t go?
But she knows Vincent will never say that. He loves her, he always has, he gets her and he always has, her passionate champion, of course he will never ask her to give up her dreams because he knows he is the reason for all of them.
He knows he is her Muse. Doesn’t he?
But what if he doesn’t, somehow? White hot fear grips her now, and she throws back the covers, feeling around on the floor for her old boots, her movements quick and sure with purpose— it’s crystal clear what she must do. She will find something to write with, she will leave the Reverend Mother a note explaining everything; promising that she will come back another day, soon, and with Vincent, at which time she will apologize sincerely, and perhaps clown a little to make the sisters laugh and make Vincent laugh and then graciously accept the certain-to-be-offered sweet hot tea and and buttered scones with convent-made jams;
Vincent I am yours! I’m not afraid anymore. I am a woman now, and yours.
Tonight we will be one.
These were the thoughts that bore up her heart up, aloft, to God and his angels, and quickened her feet toward the dark street and luminous future awaiting her below; Below, and Above;
This bright world will be ours forever now my beloved, you who are my soul’s home and hearth; tonight we start, and we shall never end and never be apart again—
And because they already were as one in the secret and eternal ways, it was Vincent’s voice she heard in her head, not her own, as she fervently offered up, to him and to a loving God the hallowed verse of her heart’s wedding vow—
With love’s light wings will I o’erperch these walls,
For stony limits cannot hold love out,
And what love can do, that dares love attempt.
Therefore thy kinsman is no stop to me….
This, this is what she was thinking as she carefully made her way out the window quiet as a ghost, through the narrow iron bars of the ornate balustrade and down the fire escape,
this is what she was thinking, that night, that awful, that magical night, as she ran, no, flew,
back to him
back to Vincent
* * *
So after long pursuit and vain assay,
When I all weary had the chase forsook,
The gentle deer return’d the self-same way,
Thinking to quench her thirst at the next brook.
There she beholding me with milder look,
Sought not to fly, but fearless still did bide:
Till I in hand her yet half trembling took,
And with her own goodwill her firmly tied.
Strange thing, me seem’d, to see a beast so wild,
So goodly won, with her own will beguil’d.
~Edmund Spenser, Amoretti LXVII