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, John Lithgow as Seminary President Maynard Casten, and Jane Alexander as his wife Portia Casten, and others as noted.]
Author’s recap from the previous chapter: After spending a passion filled night in each other’s arms, the newly engaged Benedict and Laura reluctantly part so they may fulfill their weekly Saturday morning volunteer commitment. But they will see each other very soon.
“Somerset: A Time to Love”, Chapter 14 (PG-13): Revealing their Engagement, etc.
Parting from each other this Saturday morning April 20th as new lovers and new fiancés is a wrench for Benedict and Laura. They want nothing more than to spend the weekend making love with each other–every hour of every day, until their bodies can no longer move and they must lie still in each other’s loving arms. Their intense passion for each other as new lovers is all consuming. But, the kids that they volunteer with–especially Jeffrey–look forward to seeing them, just as Benedict and Laura look forward to seeing the kids.
And they have a special treat planned with the student they volunteer for today, Jeffrey. So after showering and taking extra care with her hair and makeup this morning, Laura picks up donuts as she drives to the Chicago Children’s Group Home–anticipating seeing Benedict, her Benedict, meeting her there when she arrives.
Meanwhile, Benedict leaves Laura’s apartment complex and drives purposefully to his apartment at the Chicago Seminary College faculty housing building. Once inside his apartment, Benedict quickly takes a shower, dresses in casual jeans and his usual blue oxford shirt, then he drives eagerly to the Chicago Children’s Group Home for his weekly volunteer stint—and to see Laura.
Benedict arrives at the Chicago Children’s Group Home first and he chats with Connie as he checks in as a volunteer. Neither he nor Laura has mentioned to the other how they wish to reveal their newly engaged status. So Benedict will keep mum about it—unless a perfect moment presents itself. At heart, Benedict is still quite a reflective and reserved fellow as a Brit, as a minister, and as a professor—despite his newly engaged state.
The Chicago Children’s Group Home Volunteer Coordinator Connie Velasquez waves to Benedict when he arrives.
Connie: “Benedict! It’s good to see you again. Laura isn’t with you?”
Benedict: “Hi Connie! No, she didn’t ride over with me this week.” He says sheepishly and blushes a little. “Laura has her car this week. So Laura isn’t here yet?” Benedict looks around the front reception area, eager to see Laura again–even though they only parted one and a half hours ago.
Connie: “I haven’t seen her yet this morning. But, it’s not quite 9:00am. So, she’ll be here soon.” Connie smiles. Then she decides to find out what Benedict’s feelings toward Laura are. Though she knows that Benedict is reserved, Connie has never met a man yet whom she couldn’t pry information out of. “Laura is very nice. Don’t you think, Benedict?”
Benedict: “Of course.” Benedict replies noncommittally while still blushing. Benedict and Laura haven’t discussed when to announce their engagement to their friends and colleagues. So, Benedict feels a little shy about it at the moment.
Connie: “And you know Benedict, I think Laura likes you.”
Benedict: Benedict smiles knowingly at Connie. “Are you trying to play matchmaker, Connie?” Benedict asks her bemusedly with a raised eyebrow, because she is too late–since he and Laura are already matched up.
Connie: “Oh, maybe just a little. Laura is so sweet, she deserves some happiness.” Connie pauses while looking earnestly at Benedict.
Benedict: After a moment’s pause, but not a true hesitation, Benedict replies sotto voce. “I agree.” Benedict smiles cordially at Connie—but not out of the common way, lest he reveal his feelings about beloved Laura before he ascertains Laura’s wishes upon the matter.
Jeffrey: Bounding up to the volunteer registration check-in desk, Jeffrey says excitedly while falling into Benedict’s tall legs and hugging him around his knees. “Hi Mr. Benedict!”
Benedict: “Hi Jeffrey!” Benedict smiles warmly at Jeffrey and leans down and pats his back.
Jeffrey: “My homework’s done. So, we can just play today.”
Benedict: “That sounds like fun.” And Benedict thinks that his little nephew in England would be glad that Benedict is having fun.
Walking briskly into the reception area from the parking lot Laura sees Benedict, Jeffrey and Connie chatting. “Hi everyone!” She smiles warmly at everyone, but her gaze lingers longingly and lovingly on her Benedict. Benedict returns her gaze, and soft pink blush warms her cheeks.
Laura: “I brought donuts in case anyone is hungry.”
Benedict: “You read my mind, Laura.” He raises his eyebrows as he smiles at her lovingly.
Jeffrey: “Me, too!”
Connie: “Me, three!”
Laura: Walking up to the counter and standing next to Benedict, she puts her donut box on the counter. Then Laura turns to Benedict and greets him this morning, again. “Good morning, Benedict.” Laura also doesn’t know how and when Benedict wants to reveal their engagement. But it will have to come out to their friends eventually.
Benedict: “Good morning, Laura.” Benedict embraces Laura and then he leans down and he kisses Laura’s cheek and she blushes anew.
Connie’s eyes widen as she looks back and forth between Benedict and Laura, wondering what’s going on between them.
Jeffrey: Since most six year olds, like Jeffrey, aren’t shy about asking questions he plows ahead. “Miss Laura, are you and Mr. Benedict dating now?”
Both Benedict and Laura look a bit startled to have a kid zero in on the change in the status of their relationship. Then Benedict and Laura smile warmly at each other.
Connie: Connie raises her eyebrows inquisitively as she looks at Benedict and Laura, and asks “Well?”
Laura: At first, Laura says impishly. “No Jeffrey, we’re not dating.” Benedict raises his eyebrow quizzically.
Jeffrey: “But you seem so nice and friendly with each other. And he kissed you.” Jeffrey says grabbing Laura’s left hand and swinging it back and forth. “Ouch! What’s that?” He asks feeling Laura’s engagement ring turned under, in the palm of his hand.
Benedict: Finally speaking up, and taking Laura’s left hand in his and kissing it, then bringing her hand again down to Jeffrey’s eye level, Benedict explains. “Jeffrey you’re feeling Miss Laura’s new ring.”
Jeffrey: “But it looks old?” He asks questioningly.
Connie: Ogling Laura’s ring, Connie squeals animatedly. “That’s an engagement ring!”
Laura: “Yes, it is.” She smiles broadly at Connie and then she looks up at Benedict lovingly.
Benedict: Benedict gazes down at Laura lovingly as he puts his arms around her again. “The ring had belonged to my late Grandmother, and I gave it to Laura last night–when I asked her to marry me.” Benedict kisses Laura sweetly on her lips.
Laura: “And I said, yes.” Laura beams. Then Benedict and Laura look over at Connie and they smile at her.
Connie: “Oh my Goodness!” She screams. “I don’t believe it! This is incredible!” She moves around the counter and gives Laura a big hug.
Then Connie hugs Benedict for good measure. But Benedict stiffens in discomfort—him unused to being hugged spontaneously by an acquaintance.
Benedict: “Yes, well. Thank you, Connie.” Is all Benedict can come up with to say to Connie. Laura stifles a giggle at Benedict’s reserved nature still being quite present—despite his smouldering passions last night.
Jeffrey: “What’s incredible?” Jeffrey asks not quite understanding what all the excitement is about–since he doesn’t know what an engagement is.
Laura: “Jeffrey, Prof. Somerset asked me to marry him and I said yes.” She puts her arm around Benedict’s waist and she looks up at Benedict adoringly.
Benedict: “Yes Jeffrey, so Miss Laura and I have moved from dating to being engaged to be married.”
Jeffrey: “That’s nice!” He smiles. “When will you be getting married!” He asks interestedly and the adults all laugh.
Laura: “We haven’t talked about that yet.”
Connie: “All I can say is Benedict, for a guy who seems shy and reticent, you certainly move fast.” The adults laugh.
Benedict: “Well, we’re not getting any younger, you know.” Benedict replies cheekily.
Laura: Gently elbowing Benedict in his ribs and he winces cutely. “Speak for yourself, reverend.”
Jeffrey: “What’s a reverend?”
Benedict: “Oh uh, that’s me, Jeffrey. Though I teach theology at the seminary, I am also a minister, Jeffrey.”
Jeffrey: “What’s a minister?” Six year olds are full of questions.
Laura: “You’re up, Benedict. This is your territory.”
Benedict: “Well Jeffrey, a minister is someone who guides people in their worship of God.”
Jeffrey: “Who’s God?”
Connie: “Now Jeffrey, we go to church on Sundays. Mr. Benedict is like the pastors up front at church.”
Jeffrey: “But Mr. Benedict wears pants, not dresses.”
Again, the adults have a good laugh.
Benedict: “Jeffrey, the pastors are wearing robes called vestments over their pants.”
Jeffrey: “Oh.” Jeffrey replies, seeming to understand.)
Laura: “Benedict and Jeffrey, I don’t know about you, but I’m getting hungry.” Laura changes the subject by opening her box of a dozen donuts and offering them to Benedict, Jeffrey and Connie who each take one donut.
Jeffrey: “Thanks Miss Laura.” He smiles.
The way Laura figures it, if Jeffrey is eating then he won’t be asking as many questions. Of course, that doesn’t stop Connie from asking questions.
Connie: Connie asks Laura a bit breathlessly. “So, tell me. When did you know you were in love with each other? How did Benedict propose? Did he get down on one knee?”
Laura: “Benedict, do you want to answer her, or shall I?”
Benedict: “Be my guest.” Benedict gestures to Laura, wondering what she’ll say. Then he takes a final bite of his glazed chocolate donut—licking his fingers before wiping them on his napkin.
Laura: “Well Connie, the answers are: last weekend after we attended church together; we had attended the seminary Spring Fling dinner and dancing event last night and Benedict proposed after he took me home; and yes, he got down on one knee when he gave me my ring.”
Connie: “But I want details!” Connie says earnestly looking at Laura. Benedict blushes.
Laura: “Connie, we’ll talk later. Okay?” Laura smiles at Connie. “But right now, we’ve promised Jeffrey a trip to the zoo.”
Jeffrey: “Yes, yes, yes!” He says hopping up and down.
Benedict: “Let’s take my car.”
Laura: “I know, because your tall legs fit in it.” She smiles at him warmly.
Benedict: “Exactly.” He smiles at her sheepishly.
Laura: “I’ll just leave the rest of the donuts here.” Laura says setting the box on the counter.
Benedict: “Uh, Laura Darling, I’ll take one more donut if that’s alright?” He looks at her sheepishly.
Laura: “You’re rather hungry this morning.” She smiles at him coquettishly.
Benedict: “Ravenous!” Benedict leans forward and whispers huskily into Laura’s ear.
Jeffrey: “Me, too!” And he lunges for a donut.
Connie: “Have fun you three. Will you be back before lunch?”
Laura: “Probably. If not, we’ll feed Jeffrey out. It depends how long we spend at the zoo.”
Benedict: “Shall we?” He gestures toward the exit to the parking lot.
Laura: “Let’s.” She smiles.
As Benedict and Laura and Jeffrey walk out to Benedict’s car and drive to the zoo, Connie eats a second donut with a perplexed but happy look on her face.
It had actually been Benedict’s idea to take Jeffrey to the zoo and he checked ahead of time to make sure that it was okay with the group home to take Jeffrey out of the facility. And, since Benedict and Laura are engaged now, Benedict also wants to spend as much time with Laura as he can. As they park at the zoo and pay their admission fee, Jeffrey is agog with all of the animal choices on the zoo map.
Laura: “So Jeffrey, do you know what animals you want to see first?” She smiles warmly at him.
Jeffrey: “All of them!”
Benedict: “That’s a tall order! Well, we can always come back another weekend if we don’t see everything today.”
Jeffrey: “You promise?”
Benedict: “I promise.”
Laura: “Me, too.”
Laura and Benedict and Jeffrey see the wallaby’s first. The small kangaroo like animals are just the right size for Jeffrey. And the fact that the small kid sized wallaby’s are allowed to roam free in their enclosure–in and around the people walking on the sidewalks–thrills Jeffrey to no end. Then they see the big cats that are lounging in their cages outside. Jeffrey’s eyes widen in wonder with every animal he sees–all new to him since he’s never been to the zoo before.
The reptile house is also a big hit with Jeffrey since the handlers allowed them to pet some of the non-poisonous and non vicious animals. And seeing the seals and otters dive in and out of their water pools in their enclosures that have a wall of glass so you can see them when they dive underwater mesmerizes Jeffrey. Benedict and Laura also enjoy their zoo visit with Jeffrey, seeing the wonderful animals and learning about the importance of wildlife conservation anew with Jeffrey.
Their final visit is to the Zoo Gift Shop for some all important mementos for them to take back with them. Of course, Jeffrey wants to have a stuffed animal for every animal he’s seen today. But Benedict and Laura don’t want to create any jealousies of Jeffrey from the other kids, so they suggest that he choose one stuffed animal, a t-shirt, and something else he wants to pick out for himself. And Jeffrey makes his choices.
Benedict: “We’ll take these items for Jeffrey.” Benedict says to the Zoo Gift Shop Clerk and smiles down at Jeffrey.
Jeffrey: “Thank you so much!” Jeffrey smiles hard at Mr. Benedict and Miss Laura. Jeffrey thinks that they are the best grownups he has met.
ZooGiftShopClerk: “These are all good choices. You’re a lucky little boy that your mommy and daddy will get you three zoo gifts to take home.” Benedict and Laura wince because they don’t want Jeffrey to feel sad about not having parents.
Jeffrey: “I don’t have a mommy and daddy.” Jeffrey says sadly shaking his head at the clerk. Then, he brightens a bit and tells the Zoo Gift Shop Clerk. “Miss Laura and Mr. Benedict are my volunteers.” Benedict and Laura smile at each other and then at Jeffrey.
Laura: Smiling warmly at Jeffrey as she puts her hand on his shoulder, Laura smoothes over the awkward moment by explaining to the clerk. “Yes, Jeffrey is a wonderful little boy whom we get to spend time with.”
ZooGiftShopClerk: “Oh, sorry.” The clerk blanches, feeling embarrassed for assuming they were a family.
Benedict: “Not at all.” Benedict says smiling receiving Jeffrey’s gifts in a bag from the clerk and then leave the zoo gift shop. “Shall we head back to the group home, Jeffrey?”
Jeffrey: “Yes.” He sighs sleepily. “I’m getting tired from all the walking we did this morning.”
Benedict: “Laura, why don’t you hold onto Jeffrey’s gifts and I’ll carry him to the car.”
Laura: “Sure.” She smiles warmly at Benedict.
Then Benedict lifts the tired little Jeffrey into his arms and Jeffrey lays his head on Benedict’s shoulder as they walk to their car. They buckle Jeffrey into the back seat and he does, indeed, fall asleep on the drive back to the Children’s Group Home. But Jeffrey wakes up when they arrive and he puts on his zoo t-shirt over his other shirt. Jeffrey gives Benedict and Laura hugs and then he carries his bag of gifts to his room before lunch as he waves goodbye to Benedict and Laura.
As Benedict and Laura walk back out to the parking lot to their waiting cars, they clasp hands [(2) below]. Benedict’s larger and very strong left hand gently but firmly holds Laura’s smaller right hand in his. It is a public display of affection that is as much shyly tentative as it is boldly representative of their newly engaged state. And for Laura, even this small gesture of Benedict’s intimacy and familiarity with her as his betrothed is sweetly romantic.
For Benedict and Laura, today’s revelation about their recent engagement receives mostly positive responses. And the assumption made by the Zoo Gift Shop Clerk about Benedict and Laura already being married with Jeffrey as their son, will give both Laura and Benedict something to think about for their now shared future.
To be continued with Chapter 15
References for “Somerset: A Time to Love”, Ch. 14, September 26, 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) Benedict and Laura holding hands in the parking lot image was found via google images, at Shutterstock at https://ak7.picdn.net/shutterstock/videos/4728737/thumb/2.jpg?i10c=img.resize(height:160)
Wattpad Ch. 14 story link:
Previous Ch. 13 blog link, with embedded illustrations: