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.]
Author’s recap from the previous chapter: Forty-two year old longtime British transplant and Professor of Theology and Ministerial Training Benedict Somerset resolves to be more fun—a request or suggestion or edict from his five year old nephew across the pond Caleb—by volunteering to mentor at risk kinds. And the single and celibate Benedict—though not searching for love–admits that his clergy professor colleagues at the Chicago Seminary College (CSC) have the right of it with regard to appreciating their wives and family. Similarly, forty year old Laura Leicester (pronounced “Lester”) is a divorcee of five years who has given up on finding love. Both Benedict and Laura are heading to volunteer this Saturday, March 29th morning—at the same place. It remains to be seen if their making each other’s acquaintance this day will prove fruitful in a potentially romantic way.
“Somerset: A Time to Love”, Ch. 2: A not so ordinary Saturday
Since Laura Leicester and her former husband could not have children–a combination of infertility and other health issues at the time on both of their parts, and an unwillingness by her husband to pursue adoption—she channels her nurturing energies to supporting and volunteering for children’s causes that have always been near and dear to Laura’s heart. So, for the past several years, she volunteers on Saturday morning’s at the local Children’s Group Home in Chicago–they don’t call them orphanages any more–that provides tutoring and play activities for their elementary aged children in residence when they’re not in school on the weekends. Active children don’t get themselves or others into trouble is their caretakers’ reasoning.
And actually, most of the volunteers here are women. It’s not that men wouldn’t be welcome as volunteers–or that they wouldn’t enjoy working with the kids–it’s just that not many men have volunteered to work with the needy kids in their town so far. However today, Laura will meet and train a new volunteer–who happens to be a man—and who will challenge her calm center with his seemingly obstinate and stodgy behavior.
Laura hurriedly walks up to the reception desk at the Chicago Children’s Group Home residential facility–her long silky and unfastened hair billowing behind her like a flag heralding her arrival.
Laura: “Hi Connie, I’m sorry that I’m late.” Laura sighs apologetically to the sixty something on Associate Director and Staff Volunteer Coordinator, Consuelo Connie Velasquez [(3) right]—for Laura being all of for being 30 seconds late for her 9:00am shift.
Connie is vivacious and cheerful, a woman of color with a deep faith and she is a loyal and devoted friend. In her sixty years, Connie has advocated for children’s rights, women’s rights, and civil rights. So she comes by her profession as a Social Worker with a deep and abiding commitment for social justice with her years of experience. So Connie and Laura hit it off right away when Laura started volunteering four years ago, soon after she moved here, the year after her divorce was finalized.
Connie: “Hi Laura! Cut yourself some slack, honey. The kids will still be here if you’re all of one minute late.”
Connie smiles cheerfully and caringly, as she always does, at Laura’s caring professionalism. Of all of her volunteers, Laura is her favorite.
Just then, six year old first grader Jeffrey–a favorite of Laura’s–runs up to Laura and Connie at the front reception desk.
Jeffrey: “Hi Miss Leicester.” The group home also encourages the children to be well mannered. But Jeffrey always amusingly mispronounces her name as LAY-sess-ter on purpose as his nickname for her. “Can we play outside today?”
Connie: “That’s, may we play outside, Jeffrey.” She smiles impishly while caringly caressing his cheek. The younger kids have to be reminded about their grammar sometimes–but in a non-judgmental way as Laura just illustrated.
Jeffrey: He rolls his eyes a bit, but says obligingly. “May we play outside today?”
Laura: She smiles warmly at him. “Of course, Jeffrey. That is, if your homework is done. Otherwise, we’ll have to start with that.”
Jeffrey: He frowns. “Almost done. The new tutor guy they gave me, Mr. Benedict, doesn’t know the new math.” Jeffrey rolls his eyes in mocking disbelief as only a six year old can.
Laura: Laughing, she agrees. “Ha! I can’t say that I blame him. I don’t know the new math, either, Jeffrey.” Then Laura turns to Connie and asks her cheekily. “Connie, who is this Mr. Benedict? Is he another college student teacher in training volunteering for his clinical hours?”
Before Connie can respond, himself appears. Walking slowly after Jeffrey–or is it loping in a manly young Clint Eastwood kind of way?—and toward the reception desk where Connie, Laura and Jeffrey are–Benedict Somerset says politely in a slightly upper crust British accent in his deep and timberous voice.
Benedict: “No Miss. I’m relatively new to the area, and I enjoy working with children.” He smiles warmly at Laura–thinking that she seems nice.
Laura turns toward Benedict’s deep baritone voice and so petite is Laura that she sees only his broad expanse of chest covered in a white oxford shirt, dark gray suit with, unbuttoned and with no tie, at the base of a man’s strong neck and what looks to be broad shoulders. Then Laura looks up at Benedict’s face and she sees his slightly stubbled chin.
Laura thinks that he is probably about her age with a nice small smile [(5) right] –but with more wrinkles around his eyes than she has, she surmises. Actually, at well over six foot tall, Laura thinks that Benedict quite fits the description of tall, dark, and handsome. So, Laura is a bit startled with his handsomeness and she doesn’t say anything at first.
Jeffrey: Tugging at Laura’s arm, Jeffrey says “Miss Laura …” Jeffrey says now using his familiar semi-formal name for her. “… Mr. Benedict is tall, isn’t he?”
Laura: “Ha! Yes, Jeffrey. He is.” Laura nods and smiles at Jeffrey.
Benedict does not reply to the mention of his tallness. He knows that he is tall, if only by virtue of the fact that he has to special order his clergy vestments for length and then have them tailored to suit his requirements. It’s a British thing. So Benedict just looks benignly down at what he passingly notices is the petite lady before him referred to as Miss Laura, him patiently waiting for a proper introduction to her.
Benedict doesn’t meet many women that he finds attractive, as he perceives the womanly curvy Miss Laura to be. Hmmm. Benedict wonders where that thought came from? In truth, Benedict doesn’t meet any women at all in his sedate life whom he might consider to be a potential romantic partner for him–romance not being one of his priorities due to his ministerial calling. Though seeking a wife and creating a family together has been more on his mind of late.
Connie: “Oh, my manners. Laura, this is Benedict Somerset. Benedict, this is Laura Leicester.” Connie pronounces Laura’s name correctly as Lester.
Benedict: “Ha!” Benedict laughs and Laura looks perturbed at him–which he notices. “Oh, beg pardon, but I was born and grew up near Leicester, England, in the town of Coventry.” [(6)]
Laura: Now finding her voice again, Laura asks interestedly. “Oh, really?”
Benedict: “Do you spell your name the same as the English town?” He asks politely.
Laura: “Yes, I do. So, you’re not Canadian?” Laura smiles pleasantly at Benedict.
Benedict pauses while he stiffens and brings himself up to his full height of six foot three inches tall. There is nothing wrong with being a Canadian—if he were one. But just as he surmises that a Canadian would not want to be confused with a Brit, Benedict does not wish to be confused with a Canadian. Besides, Benedict’s Quebec Uncle Jacques would set him straight were he to even try to claim to be Canadian—as he did once as a small child, because he wanted to grow up to be a Canadian Mountie and wear the red uniform with panache. Hmmm. As a minister, he also wears a uniform—the worship vestments. And he thinks bemusedly that his early career choices each involved service to others—and a uniform. Benedict replies to Laura a bit quietly in a clipped deep voice.
Benedict: “No.” He pointedly looks at her with a slightly rising right eye brow. He wish that he could raise his left eyebrow—he feels that he would be ever so much more derisively commanding looking with the left eye brow. But only his right eye brow obeys his command to rise.
Laura is not sure if she just offended Benedict Somerset. She has, but only slightly she feels–based upon his stoic facial expression—with his right eye brow being raised and all. Unbeknownst to Laura Leicester, Benedict Somerset’s demeanor is comprised of equal parts famous British composure coupled with his years of ministerial decorum experience. Ministers are privy to more ill thoughts and shocking realities from others sharing secrets with them than even the most debased reality show on television—and that is saying something. And as to either Benedict or Laura being offended, the morning is young–more unintended cultural insults could easily occur.
Connie: “Well, Benedict since you’re a new volunteer, perhaps Laura will show you the ropes.” Connie smiles warmly at Benedict and then at Laura—Connie not catching Benedict tilting his head as if his mind were confused about why he would need someone to train him. And it seems that Laura also misses Benedicts reaction, as her response indicates.
Laura: “Oh sure, Connie. I’m happy to.” Laura says agreeably as she waves good bye at Connie. Laura has trained many a new volunteer. What’s one more? “But, first, we need to look at Jeffrey’s math homework.” She says taking Jeffrey’s hand in hers.
Jeffrey: “Do we have to?” Jeffrey whines as he tilts his head at Laura. Jeffrey’s tight brownhaired curls and glum face do not seem to match with his usual cherubic visage.
Laura: “Yes, we have to Jeffrey.” She says scrunching up her nose amusingly at him. “If you’re going to grow up and be an architect and design a house for me some day, you need to know your math.”
Benedict: “Ah, good career choice.” Benedict inserts himself into the conversation while walking behind little Jeffrey and Laura as they walk back to the study tables area. “Architecture is a noble profession, Jeffrey.” Benedict intones unintentionally pompously–like most Brits sound to Yanks.
Jeffrey: “Oh? What do you do, Mr. Benedict?” Jeffrey is interested because most people—men especially—identify their jobs first thing. So Jeffrey is used to adults telling him what they do.
Benedict: “Oh, this and that.” Benedict replies noncommittally with a grimace. Benedict is usually loathe to reveal his theology professor and minister professions because of the sterotypes that people often have about ministers. Unfortunately, sterotypes of being staid, reserved, judgmental, dogmatic, not fun, etc., apply to Benedict now and again.
Jeffrey: “You’re not a spy are you, Mr. Benedict?” Jeffrey asks with wide eyed eagerness. Jeffrey has never met a spy.
Laura: “Ha ha ha! Now Jeffrey, I doubt that Mr. Somerset could be a spy. He’s too tall to make himself inconspicuous.” She smiles benignly at Benedict. Though, she thinks that Benedict looks quite nice as a tall man.
Benedict: “Yes.” Benedict draws the word out as he squints his eyes a bit at Laura–uncertain if the petite Laura is disparaging him for his tallness or not. Actually, Benedict has always been a little self-conscious about being so tall ever since he shot up to his present height in his early teen age years. “I mean, no. I am not a spy.”
Jeffrey: “Miss Laura? What does inconspic…?”
Laura: “Inconspicuous means not noticeable. And Mr. Benedict’s height means that he is quite noticeable.” And Laura hopes that she doesn’t sound like she is stirred by Benedict’s tallness–and his handsomeness—not at all. Laura feels merely unsettled by meeting a man so tall—and one who is not unattractive physically. Though, there is his reserved demeanor that is a bit off putting to her
Jeffrey: “Oh. Well, and if you can’t do math, Mr. Benedict, then you’re not into technology. Miss Laura says that math is important to using technology.”
Benedict: “She does, does she?” Benedict looks quizzically at Laura. Then Laura tilts her head and smiles sheepishly apologetically at Benedict. “Smart lady.” He nods at her and she blinks in astonishment. Then he replies to the child. “Now Jeffrey, I didn’t say that I can’t do math.” Benedict pauses, waiting to express himself so that the six year old can understanding him. “I can do the usual math–just not the new math.”
Laura: Noticing Benedict’s diversionary tactics, she asks probingly. “Tell me Benedict, are we going to have to pry it out of you, or might you let us know what you do for a living?” Laura asks in a friendly teasing way. Laura is a little out of practice in chatting up a man and flirting with him–if, indeed, that is what she is doing. She’s not sure.
Benedict: “Generally, I find discussions of and assumptions about one’s career misleading as to the true nature of a person’s character.” Benedict says a tad shyly–and rather wordily, for him, thinks Laura–more than five words at one time.
Laura: “Well, I guess it will just have to remain a puzzle for now.” Laura looks at Benedict questioningly–wondering how he passed the background check if he is so reticent to reveal personal details about himself. Then she pats Jeffrey’s hand in hers. “Okay, Jeffrey, how much more math do you have to do?”
Jeffrey: “Just this page of addition problems.” He waves the paper at her. “I’m supposed to memorize them, too. But, I can’t.”
Jeffrey shows Miss Laura his worksheet based on multiples of two, and she gets an idea.
Laura: “Jeffrey, never say can’t. We will make short work of these addition problems, by singing them.”
Jeffrey: “Singing them?”
Jeffrey looks at Laura questioningly as his head tilts so far over, it is almost lying upon his shoulder. Benedict also looks at Laura askance, wondering what she is referring to.
Laura: “Yes, Jeffrey. Have you ever seen the old Danny Kaye movie about the storyteller “Hans Christian Andersen”?”
Jeffrey: “No.” Jeffrey shakes his head no.
Benedict: “Ah!” Benedict exclaims in recognition and smiles at Laura who smiles back at him.
Laura: “Well, there’s a song about an inch worm who also has math problems. Though, I’m not a singer, it goes something like this” And Laura sings part of the lyrics [(7)]…as she points to the addition problems on Jeffrey’s worksheet.
“2 and 2 are 4, 4 and 4 are 8
8 and 8 are 16, 16 and 16 are 32
Inch worm, inch worm, measuring the marigolds
You and your arithmetic, you’ll probably go far.
Inch worm, inch worm, measuring the marigolds
Seems to me you’d stop and see how beautiful they are.”
Benedict: “Nicely done.” Benedict compliments Laura about her singing voice as he lightly claps, and she smiles at him. He thinks that it is commendable for ladies social graces—such as musicality and singing—are still valued in America. And he wonders if she can embroider, speak French, and dance—in addition to whatever knowledge and skills are required for her career. Because she strikes him as being a lady with a career.
Jeffrey: “Ooh. This is fun math, Miss Laura!”
Laura: “Good! Now Jeffrey, you sing the math part of the song while Mr. Benedict and I sing the story part at the same time, like a round—like row, row, row, your boat.”
Benedict: “Oh no, Miss Leicester. I don’t think my voice is suited to singing.” Benedict embarrassedly tries to beg off.
Laura: Now raising her eyebrows at Benedict being so formal with her, she tries to encourage the informal. “It’s Laura, Benedict. And you’re here to help Jeffery. Right?”
Benedict: “Yes, but …” Benedict recoils his neck back as if he were a turtle retracting its head into its shell. It’s a gesture that he first did in childhood—when the stiff collar lace on his choirboy robe threatened to engulf him.
Laura: “No buts. We use every tool at our disposal–even our bad singing voices.” She quips amusingly.
Jeffrey: “Come on, Mr. Benedict. I want to sing my homework.” Jeffrey pleads winsomely.
Benedict: “Very well.” He sighs resignedly. “My apologies ahead of time.” He says politely.
Laura: “I’m sure your voice will be fine, Benedict. Are we ready? Jeffrey, we’ll all sing the number part with you to start with. Then when you repeat singing the numbers part again Jeffrey, Mr. Benedict and I will sing our story part about the inch worm.” Jeffrey and Benedict nod their heads. “Here we go!”
And with Jeffrey singing the twos additions and Benedict and Laura singing the story, they all do a fine job.
Jeffrey: “Oh Miss Laura, this is so fun! We finished my homework! And you both sang good together.”
And Benedict ponders that being a singing tutor would be something his five year old nephew Caleb would label as fun. So Benedict thinks that he is making progress—on trying to be more fun.
Laura: “Yes this is fun, Jeffrey.” She smiles at Benedict, the returns to smiling at Jeffrey. “And thank you for the compliment–we did sing well together.” Laura says gently correcting Jeffrey’s grammar again. “Now, why don’t you gather up your worksheets and put them in your room. Then come back to us and we’ll play outside for a little while before you have lunch.”
Jeffrey: “I’ll be right back!” Jeffrey replies excitedly as he slightly haphazardly picks up his worksheets, math book, and pencils and dashes upstairs with them.
Laura: “Jeffrey, be sure to bring your jacket with you when you come back. It’s chilly outside.” Laura says in a sweetly mothering tone of voice while calling after Jeffrey running away from them.
Benedict gazes at Laura Somerset, wondering about her situation and background. And he is not curious about her merely in his ministerial capacity—but as the other side to his character, as a man. And that thought startles Benedict, him reminding himself that dating is long forgotten territory for him. It has been fifteen years since he had a date or did anything remotely romantic–not since he and Gretchen broke up after being a romantic couple in every way, right before he took his ordination vows.
But reflecting upon it, Benedict thinks that, perhaps, his ministerial training will help him in this regard, in getting to know Laura—listen, observe, reflect, then comment.
That is if American dating rituals allow for slowly getting to know someone before … proceeding to more romantic inclinations. And as a teenager, Benedict’s favorite American hard rock song was “Love in an Elevator” by Aerosmith [(8)], which he realizes is not the best guidebook for properly dating or courting a lady. And Laura Leicester strikes him as a lady.
So, in the end, the Rev. Prof. Benedict Somerset resolves to simply see what develops today—if anything—between he and Miss Laura Leicester, pronounced like the town in England near where he was born and grew up. Then again, her family surname being the same as name of the city near the place of his birth must surely be more than a coincidence. Hmmm.
To be continued with Chapter 3
References for “Somerset: A Time to Love”, Ch. 2, July 06, 2017
by 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) Text for Ecclesiastes Ch. 3 was found at http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ecclesiastes+3&version=KJV
3) Connie Velasquez image (pix 2) is of Loretta Devine in “Grey’s Anatomy” found at http://www.imdb.com/media/rm2462495744/nm0222643?ref_=nmmi_mi_tt_sf_2
4) Laura Leicester image is of Jennifer Ehle in 2012 http://www.imdb.com/media/rm1425518848/nm0000383 and http://ia.media-imdb.com/images/M/MV5BMjI4MzMwMzg5NV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMDI4MTIyNw@@._V1._SX640_SY897_.jpg
5) David Somerset image is of Richard Armitage (pix35) found at http://www.richardarmitagenet.com/images/gallery/Richard/Promos/2012Promo/album/RobertAscroft-35.jpg
6) For information about Coventry, England, please visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coventry
7) “Inchworm” Lyrics found at http://www.songlyrics.com/anne-murray/inchworm-lyrics/%5D ; and the “Inchworm” tune is found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fXi3bjKowJU
8) For more information about the the Aerosmith song “Love in an Elevator”, please see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Love_in_an_Elevator ; http://www.metrolyrics.com/love-in-an-elevator-lyrics-aerosmith.html ; http://www.azvideos.com/videos/aerosmith/loveinanelevator.html
Link for Ch . 02 on Grati’s Wattpad site:
Previous Ch. 01 blog link, with embedded illustrations: