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: Saturday afternoon and evening were lovingly and passionately shared between Benedict and Laura. Benedict feels that his life is starting anew as his love for his betrothed Laura deepens. And Laura feels gratefully nestled within the cocoon of Benedict’s love.
“Somerset: A Time to Love”, Ch. 16 (PG): Going to the Chapel
Waking up a little late Sunday morning, April 21st after Benedict slept over for the first time, means that Benedict and Laura have to be focused on their showers and getting dressed in order to get to the church on time—no canoodling or breakfast–or in this case, them getting to the Chicago Seminary College’s Chapel.
Benedict and Laura attending their first worship service and sitting together in the pews this Sunday as an officially engaged couple today–since last week Benedict was officiating at the service and they couldn’t sit together–will be the first real test of their newly engaged status with Benedict’s colleagues. And Benedict has yet to inform his colleagues about the change in his relationship status with Laura.
Benedict is dressed in a sport coat over an open dress shirt and dress trousers that he had brought with him to Laura’s apartment yesterday/Saturday. Laura is wearing another demure–clergy worthy–dress that is flattering to her, but keeps everything covered. Of course, Laura is also wearing her sparkling diamond engagement ring from Benedict. So, Benedict and Laura wonder if they’ll have to announce their engagement, or if it will just spill out. They resolve to see what happens, deciding not to make a fuss about announcing their engagement.
Benedict and Laura attend the early morning 8:00am CSC Chapel service, with them sitting on the center aisle end of a pew in the middle of the 10 rows of pews. The Chapel’s sanctuary space [(2) below] feels welcoming with its classic details blending harmoniously well with its more modern architectural elements. The fine plaster walls in various shades of cream are punctuated with three large and clear rounded top windows on both side walls, that then give way to an even higher ceiling with hanging chandeliers, a blond travertine marble floor and highly polished pew boxes painted white with highly polished cherry accents. The CSC Chapel is not that large—seating five people in each pew on each side of the aisle—yet it is not too small and can hold up to 100 people.
They smile and greet several people Benedict knows and whom Laura met at the Spring Fling dinner dance last Friday night before the worship service begins. And Laura recognizes a few of Benedict’s Theology Professor colleagues and their spouses whom she met at last Friday’s Spring Fling dinner dance, with Benedict whispering their names into her ear. And apart from having Benedict so close, having his breath tickles her ear when he provides her with a colleague’s name feels so cozily intimate to here—as if she and Benedict were already a long married clergy couple.
Then, during the passing of the peace, Benedict and Laura warmly embrace each other and kiss each other sweetly on their lips–as they see other married and engaged clergy couples do. So, the jig is up on their engagement. Toward the end of the worship service–after reminding people about the cake and coffee hour that follows, as if anyone had to be reminded about eating cake–the officiating minister always makes several announcements. These announcements can be highlighting events not mentioned in the worship bulletin, or drawing closer attention to events and donations needs and such. However, after these announcements are made, the minister always opens the announcement up to the floor in case there are other announcements. Today, the minister looks pointedly over at Benedict and Benedict blushes and nods with a knowing smile.
Then, Benedict stands and he holds out his hand to Laura and she stands. Putting his right arm around Laura’s shoulders and continuing to hold her left hand in his left hand, Benedict speaks to his fellow congregants, colleagues, students, and friends.
Benedict: “Dear friends, many of you met my lady friend Laura Leicester at the Spring Fling dinner dance last Friday night.” His colleagues and friends smile and nod. Laura smiles sweetly and blushes as she nods at them. Then Benedict gazes lovingly at Laura as he says. “Laura and I have realized that we love each other very much. And I asked her marry me, and she said yes. We’re engaged and we want to share our happy news with you!” Then Benedict brings Laura’s ring finger hand to his lips and kisses it as Laura and Benedict gaze at each other sweetly adoringly.
Of course, the chapel sanctuary erupts with cheers and applause. Even in the little over a year that Benedict has been at the Chicago Seminary College, his quiet presence, his dedication as a teacher, and his heartfelt faith have endeared him to his colleagues and students. It is a good thing that the service is essentially finished, because everyone can’t wait to greet and congratulate the happy couple–Professor Benedict Somerset and his betrothed, Miss Laura Leicester–at the coffee hour.
As Benedict and Laura walk arm in arm through the hallway to the reception room used for after worship coffee hours, they have a brief moment to chat privately before they are besieged by well wishers.
Laura: Beaming as the lovely bride to be she is, Laura whispers to Benedict. “I guess you don’t need a PR person, Benedict.”
Benedict: “Not lately.” Benedict answers impishly cryptically. Then rocking his head back in laughter, he asks her. “Ha ha ha ha ha! You don’t mind, do you?” Laura slowly shakes her head no with a shy smile. “I’m sorry, Laura, but I was just bursting to tell everyone. And I can’t wait until we’re married.”
Laura: “I know, me too.” Laura feels almost giddy—thrilled to have a second chance at love with Benedict.
Then as Benedict and Laura walk into the Coffee Hour reception room, they receive more cheers and applause from Benedict’s–and now Laura’s–friends and colleagues. Two people in particular are overjoyed with the news–the Castens.
Pres. Casten: “Well, well. This is happy news! You must allow me to offer you both our warmest congratulations!” President Casten smiles warmly in greeting Benedict and Laura as he and his wife Portia walk into the Coffee Hour room.
PortiaC: “This is thrilling! Congratulations!” Portia smiles delightedly at them and she gives Laura a warm hug.
Benedict: “Thank you President and Mrs. Casten. I’m a very lucky man.” He says gazing lovingly at Laura as she gazes up at him lovingly.
Laura: “No, I’m the lucky one.” Laura says softly while smiling sweetly at Benedict.
Pres. Casten: “Laura, my Dear, and Benedict, Portia and I are delighted for you both! So, have you talked about when you want to get married? I hope you’ll consider our Seminary Chapel.”
Benedict: “Laura and I have yet to discuss details. We’ll have to work out the logistics of our family and friends—especially with my family all being in England.” Benedict feels a bit put on the spot, yet he rallies himself to respond politely. “But, thank you for your suggestion.” And for Benedict, his family in England will have other considerations that he must keep in mind with regard to his marriage to Laura.
Laura: “I think the chapel is a lovely option.” She suggests genuinely and Benedict smiles. “But you’re right about needing to check with our families.” Though she and Benedict have not discussed wedding details yet, Laura is torn between having a more traditional wedding here or with Benedict’s family in England, and them planning what is often referred to as a destination wedding at a resort. Though she supposes, that England is a destination, and she smiles mischievously up at him.
Pres. Casten: “Excellent! You just have to talk to the Chapel Director to see what dates are available. He’s standing over there.” President Casten gestures to a sixty year old looking fellow munching cake happily. “And you know, we also have some married clergy faculty housing units still available at discounted rates, that you can look at should you decide you’d like to live on campus.” He adds helpfully.
Benedict: “I hadn’t thought about the clergy housing. Laura and I will look into it as a possibility.” Benedict smiles warmly, but noncommittally–thinking that Laura may want to stay in her very nice apartment and have him join her there for their first home together. That would also give them some privacy as a newly married couple–until they buy a house with a yard where kids can play.
But Benedict reflects that he and Laura buying a home and putting down roots will mean that they intend stay in a certain city—or even country. Though Benedict’s family has been understanding about his desire to live in the States—particularly Chicago, nestled firmly in the Midwest. And though Laura has not yet expressed a desire to live in any one place, he worries that she might presume that he wishes to stay at the Chicago College Seminary—especially since she teaches at the large public university nearby.
Pres. Casten: “Benedict and Laura, please join Portia and I for luncheon today at 12noon in our seminary president’s residence and we can talk more about your upcoming wedding.”
Benedict: Benedict looks at Laura and she nods her assent. “Thank you President and Mrs. Casten, Laura and I will be delighted to join you.”
Then President and Mrs. Casten drift away and Benedict’s students eagerly pounce on he and Laura.
Bradley: “See? I was right, Professor Somerset! You two do look good together.” Benedict and Laura smile and blush.
Mark: “A lucky guess.” Mark says looking mock disdainfully at his friend and fellow graduate, Bradley. “But this is really wonderful! We really couldn’t be happier for you.”
Benedict: “Thank you both.” Benedict gives them a small nod with an equally small smile. His natural reserve comes to the fore when interacting with his students–or former students, in the case of these recent graduates.
Laura: “Yes, thank you.” She smiles graciously.
Debbie: “Okay, do you have a ring yet?” Future brides are always interested in looking at other future brides’ rings.
Sally: “Yes, let’s see it!”
Laura: “Well girls, Benedict gave me his late Grandmother’s lovely engagement ring.” Laura proudly holds her left hand out for them all to see her lovely dainty engagement ring. “I feel very blessed to have Benedict in my life!” She says not trying to be preachy or too gushy, but Laura’s natural sense of decorum just comes out.
Benedict: “And, I feel blessed to have Laura in my life!” Benedict gushes, his reserve slips and lets his joy leak out.
Bradley: “I think we’ve started a trend of engagements.” Bradley says hugging Debbie and Mark hugs Sally. “So, when’s the wedding?”
Benedict: “Laura and I have yet to discuss that. But Laura Darling, if you want, we can get some coffee cake and coffee and talk with the Chapel Director as President Casten suggested?” He asks hopefully.
Laura: “Alright, Benedict Dear.” Laura says a bit shyly feeling like she’s in a future minister’s wife whirlwind–but again, in a good way.
It is now about 9:30am Sunday morning and Benedict is getting hungry–since all the well wishing has prevented he and Laura from enjoying coffee cake and coffee after the worship service. So, he and Laura finally select some refreshments and sit down and munch and sip for a few moments. Then the Chapel Director Henry Stevens walks over to them–at President Casten’s bidding, no doubt–to discuss wedding options. But what Benedict and Laura do not expect is that Laura’s previous marriage and subsequent divorce may cause them difficulties in being married in the chapel.
ChapDirHenryStevens: “Benedict! Wonderful news! Congratulations!” Benedict and Laura stand to greet him.
Benedict: “Thanks Henry!” They shake hands warmly. “Laura, may I present the Rev. Henry Stevens, our Seminary Chapel Director.” He says warmly. “Henry, this is my fiancé, Miss Laura Leicester.” Benedict says proudly.
Laura: “It’s lovely to meet you.” Laura shakes Henry’s hand.
CDHenryS: “It’s lovely to meet you, too. Well, a wedding among the faculty! We haven’t had one of those for a few years. Most of our clergy faculty come already hooked up.” He states cheekily.
Benedict: Laughing and squeezing Laura’s shoulders, he says “Laura Darling, Henry here is a bit of an irreverent reverend.”
Laura: “I can see that, Benedict.” Laura smiles warmly at Benedict and then Henry.
CDHenryS: “Now Benedict, you’ll give Laura the idea that I crack jokes all the time. Not true.” Then Henry gets a gleam in his eye, “But have you heard the joke about the holy cornflakes?” Benedict rolls his eyes, having heard Henry tell this joke before.
Laura: “I don’t think so.” She says slowly.
CDHenryS: “Well, they’re the modern day version of manna from heaven.” Then he laughs at his own joke. Laura smiles sweetly, but she thinks that Henry is being a bit corny--to maintain the metaphor. “So, were you thinking of getting married in the chapel?”
Benedict: “Now Henry, Laura and I need to discuss our wedding plans in private together and then with our families–before we start making any concrete decisions.”
Benedict gazes at Laura, and she sighs softly in relief. Though the CSC Chapel is lovely, she doesn’t want to be rushed into a decision that she might regret later. However, she also realizes that if they are to keep their options open, they must assuage any feelings of disappointment from his colleagues at them not immediately choosing the Chapel as their wedding site.
Laura: “Yes. But, it would be nice to be married in the chapel–if that is what you wish, Benedict. It is so lovely.” Benedict beams. “My first wedding was just a courthouse affair. So, it was very simple. Though Benedict, at my age I don’t necessarily want to look like a marshmellow walking down the aisle in a poofy gown.” She laughs.
Benedict: “Ha ha ha ha ha!” Benedict rocks his head back in laughter. “Laura Darling, I’m sure whatever gown you choose to wear will be lovelier because you’re wearing it.” He says graciously.
Neither Benedict nor Laura have noticed that Henry has become rather quiet—when he is usually a jovial fellow, as evidenced by his fractured clergy jokes. And when he speaks, it will be unexpected and unwelcome news.
CDHenryS: “I’m so sorry Laura, I didn’t realize you were widowed. You have my sympathies.” He says sincerely.
Laura: “Uhh! Thank you, but no.” Laura says slowly and she looks at Benedict a bit pleadingly. “I’m divorced.” Henry clearly blanches. “Five years ago, after we were married for ten years. He left me for a younger woman.”
Benedict: “Laura Darling, he was a cad. But, in a strange way, I thank him–because your being single again allowed you and I to meet and fall in love.” Benedict gazes at Laura warmly and kisses her forehead and she closes her eyes in happiness.
But Benedict’s and Laura’s happiness is short lived. Henry looks as if he swallowed a lemon before responding to Benedict and Laura with trepidation.
CDHenryS: “Well, … with Laura being a divorcee, it does complicate things for you two.”
Benedict: “How so?” Benedict looks at his colleague quizzically. And Laura cringes for what she fears is coming.
CDHenryS: “It’s just that, our Diocesan bishop doesn’t want to be seen to be condoning divorce, so he’s not keen on having divorced people married in the church–in the chapel partrcularly. And Benedict, I’m afraid the fact of your being a minister marrying a divorced woman will also raise some eyebrows.”
Laura closes her eyes, embarrassed, hurt, and humiliated to be viewed by someone who doesn’t even know her–this bishop Henry speaks of, and maybe Henry himself–as her not being worthy of being a wife, let alone her not being worthy to be a minister’s wife, Benedict’s wife. Laura feels as if the air is being sucked out of the room, and that the joy is being sucked out of her happiness in loving and in being engaged to Benedict–as her face visibly saddens. But Benedict rallies by Laura’s side as he holds her in his arms more closely.
Benedict: “Bollocks!” Benedict exclaims, swearing in that strangely unique and slightly antiquated way that only a Brit can. Most Americans don’t know the derivation of British swear words or vulgarisms—or even their exact meaning, which is a good thing. “Laura Darling, whether we’re married in a church, a chapel, or in the open air, this bishop will have to get used to the idea of us getting married. I love you and nothing will stop us from marrying each other.!” Benedict assures Laura.
Laura: Smiling wanly at Benedict, trying to put on a good face–and not wanting to burst into tears in front of him and his colleague- Henry–she pats his tie, which is at once both an intimate gesture in touching him, as well as comforting gesture to Laura for her to feel Benedict’s permanence in the solidness of his chest. “Thank you, Benedict Dear. Um, if you don’t mind, I think I’ll go powder my nose while you and Henry talk. I’ll be right back.”
Benedict: “Alright, Laura Darling.” Benedict says with concern for Laura’s feelings. And he tugs her into his embrace and tenderly kisses her forehead. “Come back soon.”
Benedict smiles lovingly at Laura and she nods her head slowly. Laura leaves to find the ladies room–where she hopes that she can burst into tears in private.
CDHenryS: “I’m so sorry Benedict. Of course, if it were only up to me, I’d say come be married in the Chapel. But there is the Bishop’s stated policy against divorced people being married in the any Diocesan parish’s sanctuary or chapel.”
Benedict: “Henry, can’t this bishop see the irony–and the hypocrisy–in what this policy is? I mean, him supposedly advocating for marriage by not letting a marriage take place is utter lunacy!” Benedict rails at his colleague in astonishment.
CDHenryS: “I quite agree with you, Benedict. But, there we are.”
Benedict: “So, is the policy prohibiting divorced people to marry within the church or chapel sanctuary, or does it extend to the church or chapel grounds?”
CDHenryS: “I’m afraid that it extends to all church lands in our diocese. And there may even be some extra hoops for you and Laura to jump through to allow you as a minister to marry her.”
And Benedict thinks crankily that if the Diocese wants to dictate to him whom he may or may not marry, then they should get in line.
Benedict: “This is ludicrous!” Benedict fumes now becoming even more indignant. “I’ve never seen anything in the church canons about this. And I know them backwards and forwards since I teach about them to my clergy students. Henry, how can a bishop dictate policy contradicting canon law without having it approved by the Diocesan Council–or even the national church for that matter?”
CDHenryS: “As you know Benedict, Bishops still tend to have quite a bit of autonomous control over the parishes in their dioceses. It’s a holdover from hundreds of years ago when society needed strong moral principles to survive—and the church was the bedrock of society.”
Benedict: “But this isn’t a moral principle, nor even church doctrine. It is one man with a vendetta against divorced people. I’m going to talk to President Casten when he has Laura and I over for luncheon today.”
CDHenryS: “Good luck, Benedict. I’m rooting for you.” Henry says genuinely, shakes Benedict’s hand and walks away from him.
Benedict sits there stunned and waits for Laura to return from the ladies room to him. He distractedly accepts the congratulations of a few more of his colleagues and friends, trying not to betray to them the disappointment he feels–that his church, his faith, is letting him down.
Benedict believes that he hasn’t dedicated his life to God, only to have his one chance at personal happiness snatched away from him. Laura is too important to him and he won’t give her up. And right now, Benedict doesn’t feel the same way about God–or at least, this meddlesome bishop–as he had yesterday.
But though Benedict channels his feelings into outrage and problem solving, Laura feels crushed.
To be continued with Chapter 17
References for “Somerset: A Time to Love”, Ch. 16, October 13, 2017 Gratiana Lovelace (Post #1106)
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) The image representing the CSC Chapel sanctuary is that of the Chapel at Miami University of Ohio and ws found at http://miamioh.edu/hdrbs/_files/images/conference-event-services/weddings/chapels/Ses%20Chapel%202.JPG
Wattpad Ch. 16 story link:
Previous Ch. 15 blog link, with embedded illustrations: