“Somerset:  A Time to Love”, Ch. 01:  Trying to be more fun,  July 01, 2017 Gratiana Lovelace (Post #1072)

(An original story copyrighted by Gratiana Lovelace; All rights reserved)  [(1) story cover, left]

Author’s Dramatic Content Note:  I write romantic love stories for adults, aged 18 and older.  So most of the chapters will be PG-13 due to mature themes (M), or dramatic moments (D). And some of the chapters have romantic and sensual, but not explicit, love scenes that I will label as (L).  So if you are unable or unwilling to attend a movie with the ratings that I provide, then please do not read that chapter. This is my disclaimer.

Additional Disclaimer: The Wiki and other reference links that I cite contain general information merely to allude to a place, person, concept/theory/belief, history, or artifact, etc.  This story is a work of fiction, and people and their thoughts and actions are figments of my imagination and should not be taken as real or as fact.  And though the general backgrounds of the characters and the story’s contextual setting involve mentions of the Christian religion—with an Anglican/Episcopal focus—this story is a romance, not a religious tract.

[And from time to time, I will illustrate my story with my dream cast of:  Richard Armitage as Prof. Benedict Somerset, Jennifer Ehle as Laura Leicester, Loretta Devine as Connie Velasquez, and others as noted.]

 

“Somerset:  A Time to Love”:  Prologue

Life can be funny sometimes–strange, not humorous.  Well, not strange, but perhaps unexpected.  You go along in life thinking that you are perfectly happy–or at least content.  And then, something happens or you meet someone–and everything changes.    Hopefully, that change is for the better.  And though we may not have sought love–or we stopped hoping for it–sometimes love has a way of finding us, when the time to love is right.

And does devoting oneself to a life of religious service to others, proscribe that a man cannot experience all of life’s joys that having a wife and having a family can bring?  Does god require total sacrifice of Earthly love as a measure of spiritual devotion?  Must a man choose between his god and his love?  Or is romantic love possible for anyone, if we open our eyes and hearts to it?

Ecclesiastes 3 :1-9 (KJV excerpts) [(2)]
“To every thing there is a season, and a time for every purpose under the heavens:
A time to be born, and a time to die; …

A time to weep, and a time to laugh;…

A time to keep silence, and a time to speak;” …

And yes, there is, a time to love.

 

Author’s note, July 01, 2017:  I began writing my original contemporary romance “Somerset:  A Time to Love” in 2014, working on it off and on over the years.  And now, I feel that it is this story’s turn to be serialized and shared with you.  In part, because I like to rotate between sharing period historical fiction and contemporary present day romances.  So this story is in the contemporary romance category.  I hope that you will enjoy it.  Cheers!   Gratiana Lovelace  ;->

 

“Somerset:  A Time to Love”, Ch. 1:  Trying to be more fun

Benedict Somerset smiles ruefully while surveying his drab clothing options in his closet as he assesses what he should wear for his first Saturday morning–March 29th present day– volunteer stint at the local Chicago Children’s Group Home affiliated with the Chicago Seminary College (CSC) where he teaches theology and such to ministers in training for their graduate education at the Masters of Theology level.

It is really Benedict’s five year old nephew Caleb’s fault for Benedict’s focus on trying to be more fun.  At their Somerset family Christmas gathering in London last year–the first family Christmas that Benedict had attended in two years, since he has lived in the U.S. the past 24 years, since he began attending college and he stayed to live and work in the U.S. after graduation—his nephew Caleb mentioned none too casually nor delicately to him last Christmas, as forthright five year olds are generally wont to do, that his forty two year old Uncle Benedict needed to work on being more fun.  This comment made Benedict laugh.  But it also made him think.

Benedict had been more fun once.  It seems ages ago to Benedict now—over fifteen years ago before he took his final ordination vows.  He has been set upon his path as a clergyman since his youth, he felt a calling to be of service to others.  Yet, he was also a boisterous and fun loving boy and then young man.  Handsome and with pleasing manners, women flocked to him.  But he was discerning and mindful of his chosen path, and Benedict kept his heart and body untouched—merely being friends with ladies, as a future minister in training should.

Then it happened, he fell in love.  There was only one woman who had captured his heart in his mid twenties, whilst he was earning his Doctorate in Theology (the Th.D) [(3].  Gretchen was intelligent, kind, sweet, and lovely–and beyond any Earthly man’s ability to defy temptation.  She had been his first and his only lover.  And he reveled in their love during the two years of their relationship.  Though he might blush to think of their romance now—a measure of how staid, or less fun, he has become over the years—his current celibacy is only partially a chosen path for Benedict, in the sense that he does not put himself out there to date.  And Benedict and Gretchen did not live together, for appearances sake—him being a minister in training, and all–but his overnight visits to her apartment could not be disguised as anything other than what they were, lovers’ trysts.

So when Benedict’s minister in training doctoral mentor discreetly suggested that he needed to formalize his relationship with Gretchen, Benedict’s wholehearted sincere love for Gretchen felt good and right.  Benedict proposed marriage to Gretchen, but his ardor and love for her were doused with Gretchen’s pragmatic declaration that she could not be a minister’s wife—not even a minister who hoped to become a university teacher, as Benedict hoped and later did become.  She did love him—she found him warm and teasingly irreverent—but she wanted to travel the world, to see new places and new people.  And Gretchen did not want to live under what she felt were the crushing scrutiny and restrictions that are placed upon a minister’s wife and family.

At the time, Benedict had wondered how had he not been aware of Gretchen’s  attitude about ministers and their wives–that he later realized she so firmly held?  He thought that they had shared everything with each other—hearts and minds and soul and their bodies.  Yet Benedict wondered then if his all-consuming lust and love for Gretchen made him not want to see the truth, her truth—and he displaced his common sense?  He deemed that his common sense and reason must have fallen victim to the sweet and lovely Gretchen—as did his heart.  He knows that it wasn’t her fault, nor his fault.  It was just they each just wanted different things out of life.  So they parted—with some regret on both of their parts.

And then a wiser, chastened, and privately saddened Benedict finished his Th.D. and took his ordination vows fifteen years ago, and resolved for a time to put aside the physical pleasures and joy that he knew with Gretchen—though Benedict did not consciously forsake knowing them ever again with another lady, who would become his wife.  His celibacy just happened, organically as he focused on his work and service to others.  So Benedict moved to the other side of the country to begin his first ministerial work in a mid sized city’s parish for the next five years after his ordination—learning his ministerial stripes, so to speak, in the trenches of parish life.  And then another five years saw him moving up to parish and then diocesan clergy leadership and clergy mentoring positions as his vocation and talents impressed his colleagues.

Then five years ago, Benedict answered a call to teach young ministers in training, and he took up a similar post elsewhere to his current position this past year as a professor at the Chicago Seminary College (CSC).  Being a teacher and mentor for ministers in training is rewarding and fulfilling work for Benedict Somerset.  And though, Benedict has settled into a somewhat clergy professional reserved demeanor—his boisterous fun loving days behind him—he still has a warm and engaging personality, when he works on it, with his family and friends.

***

So today in Benedict’s effort for him to have interests outside of his ministerial and professorial work–and for him to be more fun–he will begin to help tutoring and mentoring young at risk youngsters in the Chicago Children’s Group Home residential facility.  And Benedict’s predicament this first Saturday morning volunteering stint is that he mostly owns professional attire–not very, fun.  And with him being a bachelor—a celibate life will do that to you–his one pair of jeans are washed, but not dry–because he forgot to load them into the dryer last night in his rather functional apartment in university faculty housing at CSC.   So he is forced to wear business professional attire to his first volunteer stint.

Benedict:   “Well, I guess I’ll just have wear my blazer and trousers with a plain oxford shirt.”  Of course to Benedict, plain still means crisply pressed at the local laundry.  And yes, Benedict talks to himself while rubbing his chin.  Self chatting is an occupational hazard—brought on by much self reflection as a clergy professor of theology and ministerial mentoring.   “I won’t be wearing a tie, so that should make me seem less formal.” He reasons.  Then he looks around his empty apartment and winces.  “I am talking to myself.”  He chuckles to himself.  “Ha ha ha!  Maybe Caleb was right.  I do need to get out more and learn how to be more fun again.”

Benedict grins sheepishly at himself in his small apartment’s entryway mirror and shrugs his shoulders. His attire will have to do.  Then he grabs his car keys and drives to the group home, with one stop along the way.

You see, a pertinent characteristic regarding Benedict Somerset is that he is by ingrained habit a quiet man, a reserved man, who has no thoughts of romantic love at present, or for the near future.  After he broke up with Gretchen, Benedict had  turned away from his own wishes for personal happiness in order to pursue his vocation of serving others. He felt that there was no other way to serve—his work consuming all of his time and energies.  And his mentors did not disabuse him of that perspective about devotion to service.

And Benedict’s austere, ascetic existence finds him lonely at times, but his work as a college seminary teacher is fulfilling–to a degree.   A tall, dark, and handsome man  when he smiles—or him looking a bit forbidding when he does not smile [(4) right]–of forty two years, Benedict still retains his British sensibilities of decorum despite living in the U.S. that past twenty-four years.   And since his religious vocation began early in his life–eschewing personal vanity, in particular—but for his brief interlude with his past love Gretchen when he did try to smarten up his clothing for her–he is not accustomed to regarding his appearance as anything more than passable, though many would disagree.

However, Benedict’s studious attitude–that is, his not quite sanguine demeanor–tends to mitigate the pleasing effect of his countenance and of his tall strongly masculine physique.  And that is just how he wishes it, because he thinks that his life has no place in it for the unpredictable emotions of romantic love—any more, since he took his vows of ordination some fifteen years ago.  However, Benedict is not entirely averse to the concept of a future romantic partner and help mate at some point in the future—a wife.  Benendict seeing many of his friends and colleagues at CSC happily situated with their own wives or husbands has softened his viewpoint on the matter of marriage and a family versus a celibate life.  He simply hasn’t acted upon his changing perspective.

Because now at his age and with his ministerial occupation, Benedict feels that finding love again—and finding a woman willing to become a minister’s wife, albeit a theology professor’s wife–would be far too delicate an undertaking that could become frought with complications both personal and professional.  Dating and courting a lady require sharing thoughts and feelings, spending time with the other person, and eventually, perhaps, kissing them—and later, once they are married, more.  And Benedict hasn’t done any of that more romantic behavior for so long, he is not sure that he knows how to any more.

So as the author Jane Austen had Elizabeth Bennet opine in Austen’s masterwork “Pride & Prejudice”, Benedict feels that perhaps love and marriage “ought not to be attempted”.   Though in the character Elizabeth Bennet’s case, she was referring to not revealing a rogue’s crimes however much she wanted to prevent others from falling prey to his wiles and schemes.  Whereas with Benedict Somerset, he is referring to him probably not venturing into dating, matrimony, and a family—all honorable pursuits, and pleasures.  But Benedict was burned once by love, and now he is twice shy.

So Benedict is alone—and has been alone for the past fifteen years since he took his ordination vows—without a wife and partner, let alone a family of children to love and nurture.  But he will not admit to being lonely, per se.  Doing so would be tantamount to stating that his life is missing something or someone.  And the resolutely self-sufficient Benedict Somerset declines to acknowledge his own need for someone to share his life with on an emotional level–a person with whom he could share secrets, wishes, and dreams together.

A wife would be the first person whom Benedict would see every morning, and the last person he would see every night.  The constancy of such a relationship has its appeal to him.  And then, of course, there would be the romantic side of their relationship–which he remembers as only a fond but bittersweet and long ago faded echo of what it was like to be part of a couple in love–or at least, in lust since his earlier romantic relationship many years ago did not lead to marriage.  But if Benedict were to ever marry, he vows that it will be for a very deep love–most definitely for love.

So after stopping at the CSC chapel and spending a contemplative and prayerful thirty minutes seeking god’s guidance, Benedict Somerset heads to the Chicago Children’s Group Home that is a part of the CSC’s outreach mission.

***

On the other side of town, Laura Leicester has seen something of married life in her forty years–experiencing both what she thought was love, and then the disappointment of its disillusionment.  And now, she presumes that she has to look forward to another forty years of nothing special.    Life’s unexpected twists and turns have perturbed Laura Leicester off and on for the last 5 years since her unhappy divorce.  But then, divorces are not usually happy–appropriate for the circumstances, but not happy.

In some respects, divorce is like a death–and you have to grieve for its loss.   And with divorce, you have the ending of a dream of a lifetime of love, of someone seeing you through the good times and bad, of having one individual whom you can always count on.  Moving forward after divorce, you have to learn to live again, and to live alone again, until people–be they friends or lovers–begin to populate your life again.  But sometimes, you have to take hold of the reins of your life and put yourself out there where you meet new people and do new things and live your life fully.  And Laura is beginning to life her life fully again.

Laura is intelligent, witty, pleasing and sweet, kind and caring, and attractive–but she is attractive in a quiet way, definitely not high maintenance [(5) right].  Laura wears complementary but not overdone makeup.  She dyes what little gray that she has in her longer than shoulder length reddish brunette hair.  And she dresses in modest feminine clothes that flatter her petite but womanly curvy figure.  So, perhaps Laura is subconsciously not giving up on herself finding love just yet.

Laura’s last name Leicester is pronounced Lester, like the English town where her family originally came from, a few generations back.  Her great great grandfather had Americanized their family name to Lester when they emmigrated from England to the U.S. back in the 1800’s–to avoid the unfortunate pronunciation problems of Lay-cess-ter, LEE-I-cester, etc.  But Laura’s grandfather was an anglophile through and through and changed their family name back to the Leicester spelling in the early 1900’s.

Actually, Laura rather likes the distinctiveness of her last name.  And its pronunciation is usually good for a conversation point or two when she meets new people.  Perhaps it was telling about their spousal relationship, that Laura never changed her last name to her husband’s last name when they married.  This is the modern era and women changing their last names is not required.  But she wonders if she had changed her last name, if it might have helped.  Probably not.  Marital success does not hinge upon whether the wife changes her last name—or the husband changes his for that matter.  At least, not in a good, strong, and mutually loving relationship that most people—she included–aspires to.

And though Laura is graced with several wonderful friendships of both women and men, the men she does have in her life at the moment are just friends–her girlfriends’ husbands, their brothers, or the odd neighbor or two.  So, Laura has gotten used to treating all men whom she meets or comes into contact with as just friends–not thinking of herself as a woman they might be interested in romantically–because she has long since given up her girlish notions of having a love of a lifetime, children, and someone to grow old with.  With Laura being forty years old, she realizes that her chances of conceiving a child are marginally less than her finding someone to love and to cherish—as she wishes to be loved and cherished.  So, she feels that her chances for love and a family are almost non-existent, another turn of phrase opined by Elizabeth Bennet in Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice.

Believing that love and a family are not in her future is where Laura will be wrong.  Love still holds its promise for her.  For how could Laura know that she will eventually meet a man who will upset her apple cart as the saying goes?

Life can be funny sometimes–strange, not humorous.  Well, not strange, but perhaps unexpected.  You go along in life thinking that you are perfectly happy–or at least content.  And then, something happens or you meet someone–and everything changes.    Hopefully, that change is for the better.  And though we may not have sought love–or we stopped hoping for it–sometimes love has a way of finding us, when the time to love is right.

To be continued with Chapter 02

 

References for “Somerset:  A Time to Love”, Ch. 01,
July 01, 2017 Gratiana Lovelace

1)  The Somerset:  A Time for Love” story cover is a composite of two main images:
a) Background–Creative Commons-licensed photo by Flickr user AlicePopkorn2]

http://www.flickr.com/photos/47283811@N06/  ;
b) Prof. Benedict Somerset image is of Richard Armitage (2012 Promo by Roberta Ascroft, pix35) found at richardarmitagenet.com/images/gallery/Richard/Promos/2012Promo/album/RobertAscroft-35.jpg
c)  a crucifix image is from MS Office Clip Art;

2) Ecclesiastes bible excerpt found at http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ecclesiastes+3&version=KJV

3) Brief information about the Theology doctorate (Th.D.) was found at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doctor_of_Theology

4) Benedict Somerset image (mask, sepia, crop) is a 2012 portrait of Richard Armitage (photo by Robert Ashcroft) found at RANet http://www.RichardaArmitageNet.com

5) Laura Leicester image is of Jennifer Ehle at the 2012 Contagion Premiere found at http://www.aceshowbiz.com/events/Jennifer%20Ehle/jennifer-ehle-premiere-contagion-01.html

Wattpad Ch. 01 story link:
https://www.wattpad.com/433984774-somerset-a-time-to-love-by-gratiana-lovelace-2017

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About Gratiana Lovelace

Gratiana Lovelace is my nom de plume for my creative writing and blogging. I write romantic stories in different sub genres. The stories just tumble out of me. My resurgence in creative writing occurred when I viewed the BBC miniseries of Elizabeth Gaskell's novel North & South in February 2010. The exquisitely talented British actor portraying the male lead John Thornton in North & South--Richard Crispin Armitage--became my unofficial muse. I have written over 50 script stories about love--some are fan fiction, but most are original stories--that I am just beginning to share with others on private writer sites, and here on my blog. And as you know, my blog here is also relatively new--since August 2011. But, I'm having fun and I hope you enjoy reading my blog essays and my stories. Cheers! Grati ;-> upd 12/18/11
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4 Responses to “Somerset:  A Time to Love”, Ch. 01:  Trying to be more fun,  July 01, 2017 Gratiana Lovelace (Post #1072)

  1. Evie Arl says:

    It’s wonderful to have you back Grati. Can’t wait to see how this one develops. Hope your recovery continues well. Best always, Evie xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Evie Arl,
      Thanks for your very kind note! I’m glad that you enjoyed the beginning to my new story “Somerset: A Time to Love”!
      And I’m coming along health wise. I’m working on my endurance for standing and walking with assistance, so that I can “graduate” from a wheelchair to a rolling walker. Thanks for your best wishes! Cheers! Grati ;->

      Like

  2. July 01, 2017–Thanks for liking/starring Ch. 1 of my new story “Somerset: A Time to Love”. (Post #1072)! I’m glad that you enjoyed it! Cheers! Grati ;->

    discovermarche, Evie Arl, & ania- zrysiowana ja

    Like

  3. Pingback: “Somerset:  A Time to Love”, Ch. 02:  A not so ordinary Saturday,    July 06, 2017 Gratiana Lovelace  (Post #1074) | Something About Love (A)

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