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: New Chicago Children’s Group Home tutor volunteer the Rev. Prof. Benedict Somerset meets seasoned volunteer Laura Leicester this Saturday, March 29th. They help little Jeffrey with his twos additions tables by singing the “Inchworm” song with him. But though Jeffrey is a big fan of Laura’s, the reserved Benedict is taken aback by her seemingly wanting to pigeonhole him into stereotypes of reserved Brit guy—he is that, he is just not accustomed to people telling him so. And Benedict thinks Laura is attractive, but her frank questions and observations catch Benedict off guard, and he doesn’t know quite what to make of her.
“Somerset: A Time to Love”, Ch. 03:
Miscommunications and Around the World
Laura Leicester and Benedict Somerset sit quietly at a study table at the Chicago Children’s Group Home on Saturday, March 29th while waiting for Jeffrey to return after putting his homework away in his bedroom– before they will take him outside to play since they helped him finish his homework.
There is a slightly awkward silence since these two adults don’t know each other—even though they just broke down several personal embarrassment boundaries as they sang Jeffrey’s math homework with him.
Then realizing that Benedict’s British reserve might be keeping him from being loquacious, Laura decides to break the ice.
Laura: “Benedict, you have a very nice singing voice.” She says smiling warmly at him.
Benedict: “Thank you, Laura. You do as well.” Benedict says graciously. “But, I don’t actually sing much.”
Laura: “Oh? Is that a British aversion? Or just your own?” Laura asks cheerfully.
Benedict: “Pardon?” Again, Benedict is not sure if Laura is disparaging him or not. He slightly frowns [(2) right] at her in confusion. Though he’s been in the States quite a while now–over two decades—Benedict is still newish to this Midwestern town near Chicago, him arriving mid-year only a year and a half ago. And Benedict is shy with meeting new people–or, meeting new women as in Laura’s case.
Laura: “I’m sorry, Benedict. We don’t seem to be very copacetic with each other.” The slang term copacetic [(3)] is a word that she picked up from the college kids she is around all the time as an Academic Advisor.
Benedict: “Pardon?” Benedict asks again quizzically at her use of an American slang term that he is unfamiliar with. And Benedict not knowing something is very rare for him. Afterall, he has been in the U.S. for over twenty-four years. And of course ,he knows what the word means in general use–but with Laura using the word as slang, he makes no assumptions–unlike her, he thinks.
Laura: “What I meant to say is that we’re not on the same page.” Benedict’s eyebrow rises higher. “And I get the impression that you’re taking some of the things that I say the wrong way. Or at least, not in the way that I intend then.” Laura back peddles, trying not to sound accusatory of Benedict.
Now that last statement of Laura’s to him is something that Benedict can agree with. But he wants to hear from Laura what she defines as him perceiving she is insulting him, versus her merely being slightly culturally insensitive—to him being a Brit. Benedict would not go so far as to say that Laura is being inconsiderate nor impolite. But he does think she could scale back her making assumptions about him.
Benedict: “Such as?” He intones imperiously and economically—under five words. He is interested to hear how she explains herself. It is Benedict’s ingrained ministerial training: listen, observe, reflect, then comment.
Laura thinks that Benedict’s sparing form of communication might be part of his problem. When in truth, Benedict is less prone to rush to assumptions as Laura seems to do.
Laura: “Well, …” Laura thinks for a moment for an example. “… I’m sorry that I thought that you were Canadian.” She winces.
Benedict: “Ha, ha, ha!” He chuckles softly and smiles. “Not to worry. Afterall, Canada is in the Commonwealth.” Then he waits to see if Laura identifies any of her other misstatements, in his view.
Laura: “And, … I didn’t mean to pry about what you do for a living. You seem …”
Benedict: “Yes?” He asks warily–wondering what assumption she will make next.
Laura: “You seem like a very private person.” She completes her thought diplomatically.
Benedict: “I am.” Benedict nods and smiles at her shyly. He gives her that point for accurately perceiving one aspect of his personality.
Laura: Laura laments that Benedict is back to short answers again. “Well, if we see each other on future Saturdays, perhaps you’ll drop a veil or two.” Laura tries to say amusingly while using an old American idiom.
Benedict: “I’m sorry that you think I’m so enigmatic.” He says crisply—him being a bit miffed again at her.
Laura: “Hmmm.” Laura thinks that Benedict is complimenting himself too much with that characterization–and her thoughts show on her face [(4) right].
Benedict: “What now?” Benedict asks her–his voice tinged with growing annoyance, born of his discomfiture in conversing awkwardly with the lovely Laura. Benedict realizes that he is botching his conversations with Laura, but he doesn’t know how to improve their communication.
Laura: “I’m sorry, Benedict.” She says sheepishly shrugging her shoulders. “But, my mind is puzzling as to whether your circumspection is due to your profession–clergy, undertaker, or spy…” She rolls her eyes amusingly at Jeffrey’s spy guess. “… or perhaps you simply have a general shyness in meeting new people, as opposed to you just being British.” She adds a tad cheekily—her unintentionally stereotyping him again.
Benedict: “Oh. … Well, you are partially correct.” Benedict admits sheepishly and nods his head with a small smile.
Laura: “See? Benedict, your partial answer doesn’t clue me into anything at all about you.” She smiles shaking her head ruefully.
Benedict: “Well, what is it you do, Laura? Are you a psychologist, police interrogator, or something to do with the CIA?” He asks looking askance at her–and with his eyes slightly narrowed–based on her probing personal questions.
Laura: “Ha! No!” She laughs. “I’m an Academic Advisor at our local public university.”
Benedict: Benedict’s face softens as his body’s tension lessens. “Ah. Well, then Laura, we might run into each other now and again at university functions. I teach theology at the Chicago Seminary College and some of our CSC bachelor’s degree students take their general education courses at the university.”
Laura: “Ah, so clergy it is.” Laura says now thinking that she’s truly offended him. “So, should I address you as Professor, Father or Pastor?” She asks politely.
Benedict: “Not at all, Laura.” Benedict smiles benignly. “Clergy titles are reserved for individuals currently serving in a parish or other church body—and continue to be bestowed as an honorific in their retirement. Though I have my doctor of theology degree (Th.D) and I am an ordained minister, I don’t currently serve a congregation.” Benedict admits that he’s a minister. “Though my full professional title is the Rev. Dr. Benedict Somerset, my students simply address me as Professor Somerset.” He states matter of factly.
Laura: Surprised that Benedict’s last two responses were long sentences–rather than the relatively short utterances she had heard from him earlier—Laura responds cheerfully. “Well, I guess you come by your seeming reticence naturally then—your being both British and a theologian.”
Benedict: Benedict narrows his eyes in slight consternation at her sterotyping him again. After all, what is wrong with being British or a theologian? Then he starts to clarify his interpretation of her statements. “Miss Leicester …” But, they are providentially interrupted.
Jeffrey: Running back to Benedict and Laura, Jeffrey says breathlessly. “Let’s go play!”
Laura: “Alright Jeffrey.” She smiles at him warmly. She’s glad to have Jeffrey as a buffer since Benedict was returning to formally addressing her as Miss Leicester, she realizes that she just can’t win with Benedict. “I’ll let you boys go out and play for a while and I’ll join you in a minute.”
Jeffrey: Grabbing a hold of Benedict’s hand, Jeffrey tugs on it and says. “Come on, Mr. Benedict. We can play around the world.”
Benedict: “What’s that?” Benedict asks looking at Jeffrey as he allows himself to be lead away. Then Benedict glances back over his shoulder at Laura.
Laura: “You’ll find out, Benedict.” Laura waves at Benedict while smiling half heartedly at him–given their recent strained conversation, she thinks that it is a wonder that she can smile at all around him.
Why must conversing with a man–especially, when meeting someone new who is attractive to her–be so difficult? But maybe that is the problem—attraction—because it adds another layer to the dimensions of their interactions, with Laura’s nervousness causing her to phrase things more frankly than she normally might. And Laura knows that she thinks Benedict is handsome and gives him the benefit of the doubt on his ability to be appealing. But Laura thinks that she is obviously far from his ideal choice for someone to be attracted to. She bases her assumption on his frequent scowling. When actually, Benedict is as frustrated as she is about their seeming miscommunications.
So, Jeffrey and Benedict go outside to play, while Laura visits the ladies room. And then Laura goes to the front desk to chat with her friend Connie, the Associate Director and the Staff Volunteer Coordinator for the Chicago Children’s Group Home.
Connie: “So Laura, how’s it going with Benedict?” Connie asks with a twinkle in her eye.
Laura: “What do you mean?” Laura asks seemingly non-challantly. But Connie won’t let her off the hook. “Okay. Benedict seems nice enough. And Jeffrey seems to like him.” She smiles wanly.
Connie: “Oh! Don’t you like him? He is quite handsome.” Connie says with her eyes dancing.
Laura: “Oh, he is that.” Laura tilts her head and smiles. “But, our conversations have been a bit stilted, awkward, uncomfortable. He’s not very forthcoming about himself. And, I think he’s misconstrued what I’ve said. Perhaps there is a cultural divide. Hhhh!” Laura sighs and shrugs her shoulders in defeat.
Connie: “Oh? Well, all I know is he is single and good looking. If I weren’t happily married, I would certainly include him in my dating pool.”
Laura: “So you’re a cougar, Connie? Ha ha ha!” They both laugh, though Connie is only fifteen years older than Benedict—only mildly cougarish.
Connie: “Laura Honey, you know as well as I, that if the gender ages were reversed, no one would think anything odd about a fifteen years older man and a younger woman. But you and Benedict are just right, Laura Honey.” Connie winks.
Laura: Finally getting what her friend is alluding to, Laura says. “Now Connie, you’re not trying to play matchmaker for Benedict and I, are you? He’s an ordained minister.”
Connie: “Maybe I am. And what makes you think he’s a minister? I thought he was a teacher at the CSC?” Connie asks quizzically. Since CSC is the Chicago Children’s Group Home’s institutional oversight body, Benedict came highly recommended.
Laura: “Benedict finally revealed that he teaches theology at the seminary, he has a doctor of theology degree, and that he is also an ordained minister–but that he doesn’t work at a parish currently. No wonder he’s so staid and restrained.” Laura rolls her eyes.
Connie: “Oh. I thought it was just because he was British.”
Laura: Laughing, she says “Ha ha ha! That’s what I thought. Well, with Benedict being British, it doesn’t help matters since they are reserved any way.” It’s not that Laura knows many Brits, she has simply watched and read a lot of Regency romances—such as by Jane Austen on PBS.
Connie: “But do you like Benedict, Laura?” Connie asks pointedly.
Laura: “Connie, I just met him and I barely know him.” Laura shakes her head ruefully–because at the rate she and Benedict are going, they’re not likely to get to know each other better. “Besides, I’ve long ago given up on finding love. I’m content with my life.” Laura says resignedly. But Connie thinks Laura is just settling as Connie raises her eyebrow at her. “Oh Connie. Let’s not have me go down a path that only has a relationship cliff at the end of it.”
Meanwhile, Jeffrey and Benedict walk outside to the basketball court and Jeffrey explains the game to him.
Jeffrey: “Okay Mr. Benedict. We’re going to play around the world.” He says bouncing his basketball up and down.
Benedict: “What game is that, Jeffrey?” He asks with trepidation. “I didn’t bring my exercise clothes with me.” He says gesturing to his dress trousers and pressed shirt.
Jeffrey: “Oh, this isn’t a running around game, Mr. Benedict. We throw the ball at the basket and if we make it, then we get one letter in the word world. Whoever gets the word done first wins.”
Benedict: “Very well. That sounds doable.”
So, Benedict and Jeffrey play around the world and little Jeffrey is a decent basketball shooter. Benedict is too–having played on an intramural college basketball team when he was in college himself. But Benedict doesn’t display his basketball abilities and he lets Jeffrey win. They end up playing two rounds before Laura joins them again.
Laura: “Well, how’s it going?” She asks cheerfully walking toward them smiling. Laura decides to try to be cheerful in talking with Benedict–in case it will help smooth over their interactions.
Jeffrey: Jeffrey runs over to Laura and hugs her around her waist as she pats his back. “Oh Miss Laura, we’re having so much fun! I won two games of around the world so far!”
Laura: “Oh?” Laura looks over at Benedict and tilts her head with a small smile.
Benedict: Benedict walks closer to Jeffrey and Laura. “Yes, Jeffrey is quite an accomplished around the world player.” Benedict says smiling and patting Jeffrey on his head.
Jeffrey: “Now you can play with us, Miss Laura.” Jeffrey says tugging at her hand as he drags her to the half basketball court.
Laura: “Oh, don’t expect much.” She says looking sheepishly at both of them. “My five foot four inch self has never been good at this. I’m too far away from the basket. Ha ha ha!” She laughs self deprecatingly. Laura aims at the basket and does indeed miss it–though not by much.
Benedict: “That was close.” Benedict allows graciously. “Jeffrey and I are already warmed up. So try it again, Laura.” Benedict says encouragingly as he hands Laura the basketball. “Give the ball a little more spin.”
Jeffrey: “You can do it, Miss Laura.” Jeffrey cheers encouragingly as only a sweet six year old can.
Laura: “Uhh!” She grunts as she hurls the ball toward the basket. And it swishes in. “She shoots, she scores!” Laura exclaims excitedly and raising her arms triumphantly in the air as she twirls around–with Laura’s long silky hair swishing as she does so that Benedict notices.
Benedict: “Well done!” Benedict smiles benignly, quietly amused at Laura’s excitement–especially since excitement is not an emotion that Benedict lets himself give in to very often, not at all actually. “Here you go Jeffrey.”
Jeffrey: Standing half way closer to the basket for the kid throwing line, Jeffrey tosses his ball and misses. “Oh darn!”
Laura: “Uh, that’s too bad. But Jeffrey, why don’t you say oh phooey next time? It sounds nicer.” Laura says looking back and forth at Jeffrey and the minister Benedict.
Benedict: “That’s fine, Jeffrey. Don’t worry on my account. Darn works.” Benedict says waving his hand in slight protest at Laura. “Here Jeffrey, try it again.” Benedict says warmly as he hands Jeffrey the ball.
Jeffrey: “Thanks Mr. Benedict.” He shoots and the basket goes in. “Yea! Now it’s your turn, Mr. Benedict.”
Benedict: “Thank you, Jeffrey.” Benedict says oh so politely in receiving the ball. Benedict stands there, bounces the ball once, then Benedict does an effortless toss and his basketball swishes in the basket. “Ah. A lucky throw.” Benedict says dismissively and humbly. Though he can’t seem to stifle the small smile curling at the edges of his lips. He wanted to impress Laura, just a little.
Laura: “I don’t know, Benedict.” Laura says looking at Benedict questioningly with a small smile as she tilts her head and raises her eyebrow. “I’m beginning to think that maybe you have more basketball skills than you’re letting on.” She says teasingly.
Benedict shrugs his shoulders and tilts his head with a small smile as he raises his eyebrow. The three of them continue to play around the world and Laura begins to notice a pattern. When Jeffrey is successful and makes his basket and letter in the word world, then Benedict also makes his basket. When Jeffrey misses his basket, then Benedict misses his basket. Finally the game ends with Jeffrey winning again since he finished his world word letters first. Laura smiles knowingly at Benedict, but does not reveal his kindness to Jeffrey.
Jeffrey: “Thanks Mr. Benedict and Miss Laura! This was fun!” He says giving them each a hug. And Benedict and Laura hug Jeffrey back. “And I liked the adding song.”
Laura: “I’m glad, Jeffrey.” Seeing the other children walking inside, she gestures. “It looks like they’re calling you in for lunch now. You have a fun rest of your day and I’ll see you next Saturday.”
Benedict: “Yes, it’s been fun meeting you, Jeffrey.” He leans down and shakes Jeffrey’s hand.
Jeffrey: Jeffrey starts skipping away toward the building and lunch. Then he turns back to Laura and Benedict and says. “This week in school, we’re working on threes. I can’t wait to learn its song.” Then he runs into the building.
Laura: “Oh dear, Benedict. Ha ha ha. I fear that I’ve started something with introducing an addition song to Jeffrey.” She laughs shaking her head ruefully at Benedict.
Benedict: Laughing he says. “Ha ha ha. Laura, if you will just give me a cheat sheet with the song lyrics next time, I’ll wing it with Jeffrey.” Benedict smiles kindly. And Laura likes Benedict’s kind smile.
Laura and Benedict walk back into the building to sign out for the day as volunteers.
Laura: “So, we didn’t scare you off and you’ll be back next Saturday?” Laura asks hesitantly looking up at Benedict from the sign out page. She wonders if she scared him off.
Benedict: Benedict thinks as he looks down at her, that Laura has a sweet face–open and honest, no guile to her. “No. You didn’t scare me off.” He says slowly while smiling–also smiling himself out. “I’ll be back next Saturday.”
Connie smiles, too, and waves to Laura and Benedict as they leave the building.
Laura: “Well, I’m glad that you’ll be back, Benedict.” And she is. “These kids–especially the boys–need more strong male role models.” Laura says walking out the door toward her car with Benedict walking alongside her.
Benedict: “Oh? So, I’m a role model now, Laura? Earlier, I wasn’t sure if I was meeting minimum volunteer expectations.” Benedict says frankly as he looks at Laura with slightly clenched lips.
Laura: “Benedict, somehow, I think you and I have misunderstood each other this morning. We don’t seem to be communicating well with each other.” She says truthfully. “Why don’t we treat next Saturday’s volunteer stint as a fresh start? Hmmm?”
Benedict: “That seems fair. But I don’t think we’ll do much better next week unless we first make an effort to understand each other before then.” And he surprises himself with his boldness for what he will propose next.
Laura: “I agree.” She sighs resignedly. “What do you suggest?”
Benedict: “Well, let’s truly get to know each other better now, Laura. Why don’t I take you out to lunch today?” He says affably with a small smile, trying to seem gracious. Benedict is unused to interacting with women unless they are clergy, teaching colleagues, or students—none of whom are eligible dating candidates for him.
Laura: “Oh, I don’t know, Benedict.” She says hesitantly and winces at him. Laura thinks that she hasn’t shared a meal with a man for a long time–unless she’s been in a group of people. And she doesn’t know if Benedict will think of lunch together as a date—but he has offered to pay.
Benedict: Sensing Laura’s hesitation, Benedict retreats. “I’m sorry, Laura. Perhaps you have other plans, or you need to meet someone.” Benedict wonders a bit interestedly, though he doesn’t notice that Laura’s rings are wedding or engagement rings.
Laura: “No, I don’t have plans.” Laura can’t figure how to get out of having lunch with Benedict gracefully. And she would not lie to him and say that she is busy, when she is not. Though Laura is not sure why she’s so nervous about going out to lunch with Benedict. Benedict is a minister–which isn’t that objectionable, Laura thinks. They help people—the good ones anyway. And she feels that Benedict is a good one for some reason. And hey, she has to eat. “Hhhh. Alright, Benedict.” She sighs. “But, let’s go dutch treat.”
Benedict: “Very well.” Benedict nods his head solemnly. “Any thoughts on where you would like to go for lunch?”
Laura: “Oh dear!” Laura sighs–feeling that their lunch choice is also frought with possible complications. “I’m happy with soup and/or sandwich type food–nothing fancy. How about Pritzker’s Deli?”
Benedict: “A deli sounds tasty. That should work.” Benedict nods his head approvingly. “But I don’t know where it is. Shall we take one car so I don’t get lost trying to follow you? Traffic is quite heavy today.”
Laura: “Sure. Your car or mine.” Laura feels comfortable enough and safe around Benedict now, with her knowing a little bit of his background.
Benedict: “May we take mine? I’m tall and I know that I fit in my car.” He winces.
Laura: “Fair enough.” Laura smiles pleasantly at Benedict. And he returns a pleasant smile in kind.
So, Benedict courteously opens his car’s passenger side door for Laura and she slides in and buckles herself up. Benedict’s car is a smallish mid sized sedan, but he actually seems to fit his tall self into it. And they drive to Pritzker’s Deli, a local sandwich shop and dine in restaurant for lunch.
Laura likes Benedict’s calm confidence. He does not try to persuade her, but presents options—such as suggesting that they get to know each other better via sharing lunch today. She can’t explain it. But Laura wants to get to know Benedict better. And she relaxes in her car seat and watches Benedict drive—his eyes are facing forward, not deviating from his purpose. She likes that about him.
And though Benedict is concentrating on his driving to the restaurant for lunch with Laura, he cannot help but glimpse Laura’s face when she gives him driving directions to the restaurant that require him to turn right. Benedict believes that Laura is truly a natural beauty. And her frank way of speaking that has unsettled him a bit today, is what he might now be more inclined now to charitably describe as forthright. She is simply open and guileless. And Laura is cheerful, which Benedict likes—a counterpart to his more reserved nature.
So lunch today between Benedict and Laura has the possibility of a new beginning between them.
To be continued with Chapter 4
References for “Somerset: A Time to Love”, Ch. 03, July 09, 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) Benedict Somerset image (mask, sepia, drkn, crop) is a 2012 portrait of Richard Armitage (photo by Robert Ashcroft) found at RANet http://www.RichardaArmitageNet.com
3) The slang meaning for the word copacetic may be found at: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/copacetic
4) Laura Leicester image is of Jennifer Ehle in a still from A Gifted Man found at http://img.poptower.com/pic-74447/jennifer-ehle.jpg?d=600
Wattpad Ch. 03 story link:
Previous Ch. 02 blog link, with embedded illustrations: