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: After spending the morning, lunch and the early afternoon together—with volunteering at the Chicago Children’s Group Home, Pritzker’s Deli and then the Deli’s tavern bar area with playing pool—both Benedict and Laura dream that night about each other.
For Benedict and for Laura, they are nascently exploring whether a friendship relationship—or even a romantic one—might be possible for them. Their dreams each wishing for a greater tenderness between them that a romantic relationship built upon love would beget. So their next interactions while awake will help determine whether their dreams may become their reality.
“Somerset: A Time to Love”, Ch. 06: Something to Build Upon
Now that Benedict is a trained tutoring mentor of the grade school aged children—him having had one week volunteering with Laura as his mentor–he will be on his own this second Saturday (April 6th) of his volunteering at the Children’s Group Home of Chicago. With each tutor/mentor volunteer being paired with a child one-to-on, that means more children can have a volunteer/mentor to work with. Benedict and Laura see each other at Saturday’s 9:00am volunteer check in sign in sheet and they touch bases with each other.
Benedict smiles in recognition of Laura’s breezy fashion style and for her beauty—her comfortable yet flattering clothes, her silky auburn hair falling over her shoulders, her sparing makeup upon her naturally beautiful face, and her ever present luminous smile [(2) right]. Benedict believes that Laura is someone special sent to enliven and enrich his rather drab life. He just hopes that he can fulfill a similar role for her.
Laura: “Hi Benedict, you’re back!” Laura cheerfully intones—she is really glad to see him, and for more than just the kids’ sake.
Laura smiles brightly up at Benedict. And she notices that his oxford shirt and long cardigan sweater covered arm sleeves are rolled up almost halfway to his elbow, showing a bit of his hairy and muscular looking forearms. And Laura impishly wonders if Benedict is being sartorial with his rolled up sleeves? Or, did he somehow shrink his shirt and sweater sleeves in the wash. For some reason, Laura thinks that it is the latter, because to her, Benedict dresses himself classically, traditionally—with him caring little for fashion. Afterall, in design of any kind, the rule is that form follows function [(3)]. But then Benedict’s changed and brisk vocal tone brings her back to thinking about the present.
Benedict: “I said that I would be back this week, Laura.” He nods somewhat defensively as he unconsciously winces. When Benedict gives his word, he follows through with it. And he wonders why she would doubt him—especially after their lovely lunch and time together last Saturday.
Laura: Realizing that she might have sounded judgmental, she tries to be more complimentary to Benedict. “I’m glad, Benedict. You and Jeffrey really got along well together last week.” Laura smiles sweetly at Benedict. “Well, have a good day with him today. I’m working with Cindy.” Then she turns and starts to walk away from him.
Benedict: “Wait a minute, Laura! What about the threes?”
Laura: “The threes? Oh, you mean Jeffrey’s addition and multiplication tables this week? Gosh, I forgot about that.” She scrunches up her nose cutely, thinks Benedict.
Benedict: A disconcerted [(4) right] looking Benedict appeals to Laura. “Well, I was relying on you to come up with a song again. And with multiplication tables, too, I don’t have any learning strategies to implement, off the top of my head.” He raises his eyebrows hopefully at Laura. Benedict is a university teacher, of theology and ministerial professional development. He hasn’t had to think about math for some time. “And I’m not really all that musical if another song is involved.”
Laura: “Your fine baritone voice to the contrary, I suppose.” She smiles cheekily at him. “Well, I guess there is always the Three Blind Mice song.”
Benedict: “Hmmmm. I don’t know.” Benedict ponders while shaking his head and blanching as he folds his arms across his chest. “That song is rather violent for a six year old, don’t you think, Laura? The whole cut off their tails with a carving knife part is very gruesome—when you think about it.”.
Laura: Laura walks back to Benedict and she absentmindedly places her hand on his only partially shirt and sweater covered muscular forearm. “Oh, Benedict, have you seen the video games kids play these days?” She teases.
Benedict: Liking Laura teasing him, but choosing to stay in his perplexed stance to tease her, Benedict intones mock loftily. “Not really, Laura. I mostly play Solitaire or “Scrabble” on my laptop at home.”
Laura: Laughing while shaking her head, Laura smiles warmly at him and says “Ha ha ha. Of course you do, Benedict.”
Benedict: “Okay,” He sighs resignedly. “I’ll stick with the three mice and their three tails make six parts. I’ll improvise from there.”
Of course, Benedict has a standard unit of three in his line of work. But though he wants to loosen up around Laura with more of his gently irreverent humor, he demures about mentioning the concept of the trinity.
Laura: “Have a good day, Benedict. I’ll be working with little Cindy today.” Laura waves to Benedict as she starts to walk toward the study room to meet with little Cindy.
But once more, Benedict calls Laura back to him.
Benedict: “Oh Laura! Just a moment, please!” Benedict raises his hand and his index finger, as if he were hailing a cab.
Laura: Turning back to face Benedict again, Laura asks him sweetly, hopefully. “Yes, Benedict?’ She waits patiently, at first, for him to respond—wondering if this taciturn and seemingly shy man might ask her out for lunch again.
Benedict: “Uh.” He looks perplexed.
Laura sees little Cindy waving at her excitedly and Laura waves back to her, circling her hand as if to indicate that she is wrapping things up with Benedict and will be tutoring Cindy soon. Cindy is such a little dear. And Laura doesn’t want to keep Cindy waiting too long. Yet, Laura hopes to see more of Benedict—if that is also what Benedict wants. So she gives him a little push.
Laura: “Was there something else I can help you with, Benedict?”
Benedict: “Well, I, uh.” Benedict thinks that he’s never been this tongue tied in his life. But there is a reason. Benedict likes Laura, very much—as his dreams last week, and every day following, attest. And he is nervous about whether or not Laura reciprocates his attraction to her.
Laura: “Benedict, I’ll tell you what I say to the kids. Use your words if you want to communicate clearly with someone.” She says cheekily.
But cheeky is not the right approach for Laura to encourage the taciturn Benedict to open up to her. So Benedict decides not to trouble her about his wishes.
Benedict: “Oh, never mind. It wasn’t important.” Benedict says dejectedly, losing his nerve and he starts to turn away from Laura.
Laura: “No, I’m sorry Benedict.” Laura says more softly as she touches his arm again. “Please forgive my cheekiness. It’s a habit that I just can’t break. Really, what is it?” Laura asks warmly as she looks up at him and smiles, still with her small hand lying gently on his muscular forearm.
Benedict: “Well Laura, …” Benedict pauses again, hesitant to ask Laura out again. Laura just looks up pleasantly at Benedict, wondering what he wants to say to her–but she waits patiently for him to respond to her. “I wondered if you wanted to go out to lunch again. And then maybe you can help me find a store so I can buy a new coffeemaker.” He says quickly, all in one breath.
Laura: “Oh. … Sure. … Not a problem. Benedict, I’ll meet you back here at 11:30am at volunteer checkout.” Laura smiles and nods at Benedict warmly. And she isn’t sure if Benedict’s purpose is finding a coffeemaker, or spending more time with her.
Benedict: “Thanks, Laura.” Benedict smiles politely and waves at Laura as he walks toward the study room to find Jeffrey.
Connie: Walking up to Laura at the front reception desk, Connie says knowingly. “So, it looks like you and Benedict are getting along.”
Laura: “Yes, he’s a nice fellow–after he’s warmed up a bit.” Laura nods her head benignly.
Connie: “And he’s handsome, too.”
Laura: “Oh you!” Laura rolls her eyes at Connie. “There you go again. Connie, the guy is a minister. Though, he did get a little irreverent at lunch last week–once he loosened up.”
Connie: “Uh huh.” Connie nods her head knowingly again. “And you’re having lunch again with him today?”
Laura: “Oh Connie. The man just wants some help buying a coffeemaker.” Laura says obtusely.
Connie: “Sure he does.” Connie says sarcastically.
Laura: “Connie, Benedict and I are just friends–like all the men I know.” Laura says shaking her head ruefully. “Not that I know that many single men. But, I’m afraid that I’ve missed the boat on romance in my life. And Benedict has given me no indication that he thinks of me in a romantic way.” Laura mugs at Connie.
Connie: “We’ll see.” She says knowingly.
Laura rolls her eyes again. Even if she were to wish for Benedict and she to develop a romantic relationship, as her dreams have continued to ponder, the whole issue of her kissing anyone–let alone kissing a minister–is just too unfathomable to Laura at the moment. There are so many health safety considerations with regard to dating these days. So, Laura puts her thoughts of kissing Benedict out of her mind completely. Well, not completely out of her mind, just mostly out of her mind. Hmmm, thinks Laura.
After Benedict and Laura have a nice but quick lunch at a pizza parlor with a buffet line this week–Benedict likes pepperoni and Laura likes sausage and mushrooms, with each also having a salad–they go to a large moderately priced department store to check out coffeemaker options for Benedict. They walk down the store aisles toward their destination, with Benedict pushing the shopping cart since it is his purchase of a coffeemaker that has brought them here. Well that assessment is partially true. And with about two dozen different coffeemaker choices in the small kitchen appliances aisle, and Benedict looks nonplussed.
Benedict: “My word! The range and depth of choices are a bit overwhelming, Laura.” He says looking at all of the large and small coffeemakers.
Laura: “Well Benedict. What are your needs?” Laura innocently asks Benedict.
Benedict: “My what?” A startled Benedict looks at Laura for her choice of words. For some reason, what Benedict thought was his staid and properly decorous mind has turned its attention to an altogether romantic interpretation of her question about his needs.
Laura: “Your needs, Benedict.” Laura stresses the word needs again–which causes Benedict to become unsettled and he squirms a little due to his physical reaction to Laura and her words–because he is thinking of something other than coffeemakers. “Benedict, what I mean is, how are you going to be using the coffeemaker?”
I wonder at Benedict’s seeming confusion. Afterall, he is the one who wanted help in selecting a new coffeemaker. And I try to picture Benedict making coffee with one of the more space age looking coffeemakers on the shelves. But comical visions of a fountain of coffee spewing out of the top of a clearly non working coffeemaker come to my mind.
Benedict: “Oh, that.” Benedict says quickly and looks relieved–because Benedict is rusty about dating protocols. And though they each paid for their own meals again, he wonders if her helping him with a domestic detail—buying a coffee maker—constitutes a date? “Well, uh, Laura. I like to have a morning coffee that I can take to my office on campus, in my pint sized travel mug thermos.”
Laura: “Uh huh.” She says absentmindedly as she looks at the many coffeemaker choices. “So Benedict, are you a big caffeine addict?” She says continuing to look at the coffeemaker choices rather than at him.
Benedict: “No. I just like a little jolt of java now and then.” Then Benedict looks shyly at Laura–who is not looking at him at the moment–and he adds hesitantly. “And, were I to have guests over to my university apartment, it would be nice to have the capacity to make enough coffee for a small party.”
Laura: “So, are we talking about a twelve cup coffee pot?” She asks gesturing to one model with a generously sized glass carafe. “Or, do you want a super size thirty cup coffeemaker?” She says pointing to a much larger and taller aluminum coffeemaker. Then Laura looks at Benedict and smiles.
Benedict: “That 30 cup coffee pot looks too big for just me. I don’t really entertain that much.” He back peddles. “I just want to be ready … in case I want to have a few guests over.” Or just one guest, he thinks.
Laura: “Hmmm. Being ready? Is that the minister in you talking, Benedict?” Laura smiles at him warmly.
Benedict: “I suppose so.” I shrug. And though I smile politely at her, I am certain that my smile does not reach my eyes.
Benedict wonders why Laura keeps bringing up that he is a minister. Of course, he knows that technically he is a minister. But Benedict is not sure why Laura seems to think that him being a minister is an important point. In truth, Benedict worries that Laura might view his profession as a turn off–as his long ago girlfriend Gretchen did. But then again, Benedict wonders, why should he worry if Laura thinks his profession is a turn off? Yet deep down, Benedict acknowledges to himself that Laura’s opinion does matter to him.
Laura: “Okay. Well Benedict, you could buy two different coffeemakers–a two cup for just you and your morning or dinner coffee. Then a twelve cup pot for when you have guests over.” She suggests helpfully. “These coffeemaker cycles on the 12 cuppers are pretty quick, should you need to make a second pot. I’ve got a twelve cup coffeemaker similar to this one at home, and it seems to work well.” Laura says nonchalantly examining the coffee pot and not looking at Benedict directly again.
However, Benedict is looking at Laura quite closely, and appreciatively–her sweet face, her long silky hair, and her womanly curvy body. Ooh, he’ll have to say some confessional prayers tonight for having those thoughts.
Benedict: “Very well, Laura. That is what I’ll do. Thank you for your help, Laura.” Benedict smiles benignly–trying not to betray his growing interest in Laura.
And Laura nods and she looks up and she smiles warmly at Benedict–thinking that Benedict isn’t so stubborn since he’s using her advice on buying two coffeemakers.
Then when they are in the checkout line to buy the coffeemakers—with Laura walking behind Benedict—a petite grandmotherly aged woman dashes back into their line and taps Laura on the shoulder. When Laura turns around, she sees a tiny elderly woman with a kind face.
Petite elderly woman: “Excuse me, dearie. May I squeeze past you to reach my husband? He forgot his new suspenders.” She shakes her head and rolls her eyes as she holds up the package of suspenders. “You know how men are.” The woman eyes the very tall back of Benedict. “They think that they can make do with the suspenders they’ve got—until they disintegrate and their pants fall down. But I would rather have him not lose his pants in public.” The petite elderly woman winces cutely.
The other woman’s wifely concerns amuse Laura.
Laura: “Of course, please go ahead of me.” Laura acquiesces and lets the lady walk ahead of her—since the woman is obviously trying to catch up with her husband.
But Benedict is focusing upon his impending purchases—which will be next after the older man in front of him finishes his purchases. Benedict finds himself becoming a tad impatient with waiting, and he can’t think what is causing the delay.
The petite elderly lady now stands behind Benedict and taps him lightly on his sweater covered left shoulder blade to get his attention—she can’t reach any higher. Benedict turns his head to look over his shoulder and he sees Laura smiling at him. He smiles back. Then he turns to face forward again.
Not to be thwarted, the petite elderly lady taps again, and pulls Benedict’s sweater slightly downward toward herself. And in turning and looking down, Benedict finally sees the petite elderly lady.
Benedict: “Oh! Madam! My apologies! I did not see you at first.” And Benedict smiles at the sweet grandmotherly face of, perhaps, the tiniest woman he has ever met. He thinks that she has to be barely five feet tall—when Benedict is well over six foot tall at six feet three inches in height. So he thinks that he must appear to be a giant to her.
Petite elderly woman: “Oh Sir, might you allow me to step in front of you to reach my husband there?” Seeing Benedict’s size, the elderly lady would in no way address him as dearie.
Laura: Smiling kindly at Benedict, Laura says pleasantly. “Please, Benedict?” He nods and gestures for the older woman to step in front of him.
After the petite elderly lady hands the package of suspenders to her husband with a prim gaze, she turns back to the young couple before her. Smiling at Benedict and then Laura, she remarks knowingly.
Petite elderly woman: “You two are such a cute couple. Thank you for your kindness.”
Benedict: “Of course, Madam. But Laura and I are not …” And he looks back at Laura, trying to gauge her reaction—or a clue as to how to describe them to the older lady.
Laura’s eye brows rise, waiting in anticipation of how Benedict will describe their relationship to the older lady.
Benedict notices Laura looking at him and nods to her—him choosing not to finish his sentence. Benedict doesn’t know what he and Laura are right now—or what they might become. But Benedict doesn’t want to frame his and Laura’s current and future interactions by any limiting factors in how he describes their current level of acquaintance. So he just looks sheepishly at the petite older woman.
Petite elderly woman: “That’s alright, my dears. I understand.” And Benedict and Laura each wonder what she understands. “Are you’re just getting to know each other?” Both Benedict and Laura smile kindly at her in relief. “Awww! Well, that’s important—getting to know each other, I mean. My husband and I were love at first sight. Hhhhh! We met at a family birthday party fifty two years ago and haven’t been apart since—not even until we married two years later. Well, it was the sixties, you know. Make love, not war.” She smiles saucily then flutters her fingers at Benedict and Laura in farewell as she joins her husband in collecting their purchases. “Bye now.”
Benedict blushes for the older lady revealing such a private matter as her sleeping with her husband before they were married. Though Benedict remembers that he and his former girlfriend Gretchen had done that. But then they didn’t marry—Gretchen’s choice, not his. Benedict had wanted to marry Gretchen, but she didn’t want to be a minister’s wife. So Benedict took his ordination vows after they parted. And Benedict has been celibate in the fifteen years since then. He has not even entertained the desire to feel that closeness and oneness of being with anyone else the past fifteen years–until now, until Laura. And Benedict smiles at Laura with an unconsciously tender gaze.
Laura: “Benedict?” She touches his arm.
Benedict: Giving her his full attention—in the checkout lane—Benedict’s voice deepens. “Yes, Laura?” His question is portentous, as his desire to know Laura better—to know Laura in every way that a man can know a woman—makes his breathing hitch.
Laura: “It’s your turn.” Laura nods with a smile.
Benedict: “I certainly hope so.” Benedict smoulders as he gazes down at Laura’s upturned face. And now Laura is caught in the intensity of Benedict’s gaze, her face displaying a becoming pinkish blush.
Then another voice intrudes upon Benedict’s ruminations about Laura. The cashier asks him.
Cashier: “Sir, are you ready to checkout?” She points to his two coffeemakers on the conveyor belt.
Benedict: “Ah! Yes! Of course.” Now Benedict blushes for being so enraptured by Laura’s sweetly upturned face that he forgot where he was. But he completes his purchases and they head toward their respective cars parked side by side in the parking lot.
Benedict feels a need—there is that word again, he thinks—but he does feel a need to touch Laura in some way. He wants to leave her with a token of his regard. But he is unsure of what might be appropriate—a kiss would be too much at this point–and his dating skills that were never very acute, have quite abandoned him at the moment. So he shuts his car trunk and starts to return the shopping cart to the corral.
Laura: “Let me put the cart away, Benedict. The cart corral is on the other side of my car.”
So, Benedict watches Laura easily glide the shopping cart away from him and then she turns and parks it in the cart corral.
Benedict and Laura walk the few steps back to their cars, both of them waiting at the back of each their cars.
Benedict: “Thank you for your help today, Laura.”
Laura thinks that Benedict’s deeply sonorous vocal timbre feels like a velvet cloth caressingly brushing across her cheek. And as they stand gazing at one another in the parking lot, Laura unconsciously raises her right hand to Benedict in farewell, and he gently takes her small hand into his large hand.
Laura: “You’re welcome, Benedict. Good luck with your coffeemakers.”
Laura smiles sweetly at Benedict—and he responds in kind. And in this moment of gazing at each other without shyness nor embarrassment, neither realizes that they are still holding hands.
Benedict: “Well, now that I have the means to make coffee for someone other than myself …” Benedict stops before he invites her over to his place. What is he doing? He cannot be alone with a single woman in his university apartment. “…I mean …” He looks down at his hand still holding her hand. Yet he can not let her go, not just yet.
To Benedict, Laura is the promise of happiness that he thought that he might never have. And to Laura, Benedict is the promise of trust renewed—with the hope of being loved and cherished.
Laura: She smiles knowingly. And Laura responds as if Benedict had finished his sentence with an invitation. “Perhaps.” She gently squeezes his hand.
Benedict nods his head, and then they slowly part their hands [(5) below] —their fingers trailing across each other, creating rippling tingles and a warmth of tender feeling in each of them—as Benedict and Laura part from each other for the week.
Theirs might not be a love at first sight kind of passionately tempestuous romantic relationship–at least, not yet. But rather, Benedict and Laura are experiencing a slowly and carefully developing feelings and regard for each other. And they are something to build upon.
To be continued with Chapter 07
References for “Somerset: A Time to Love”, Ch. 06, July 30, 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]
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) 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
3) Information about the design rule “form follows function” may be found at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Form_follows_function
4) Benedict in casual sweater looking down in a contemplative mood is Richard Armitage at the THAUJ-2012–Toronto- Premiere Press via Simonne (Thanks!) Mar1216; Grati crop and bkgrnd mask, Jul2917.
5) Image representing Benedict’s and Laura’s fingers slowly parting is an image from the BBC’s 2004’s mini-series “North & South” found at http://www.richardarmitagenet.com/images/gallery/nands/album/episode2/slides/ns2-105.html
Wattpad Ch. 06 story link:
Previous Ch. 05 blog link, with embedded illustrations: