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), and such. 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, Charles Dance as Benedict’s father Edward Somerset, Helen Mirren as Benedict’s Mother Elizabeth Somerset, Dawn French as Benedict’s elder sister Alexandra Somerset Solsbury, James Nesbit as Benedict’s elder brother Edmund Somerset, Chris Pine as Laura’s younger brother Steve Leicester, and others as noted.]
Author’s recap from the previous chapter: After Laura’s brother Steve and Benedict’s sister Lexi, Lady Bath show up at Laura’s apartment early Wednesday morning of April 24th—the siblings rather intrude upon what Benedict and Laura had hoped would turn out to be a lovely and loving morning before heading to the wedding planner in the afternoon. Then with some posturing by the boys and friendly condescension by the girls, Benedict’s and Laura’s day will continue quite differently than that they had originally planned.
“Somerset: A Time to Love”, Ch. 23 (PG): Girls and Boys
After Laura’s brother Steve and Benedict’s sister Lexi, Lady Bath show up at Laura’s apartment early Wednesday morning of April 24th—the siblings rather intrude upon what Benedict and Laura had hoped would turn out to be a lovely and loving morning before heading to the wedding planner in the afternoon. But with some posturing by the boys and friendly condescension by the girls, Benedict’s and Laura’s day will continue quite differently than that they had originally planned.
Much to Benedict’s chagrin, his betrothed Laura is subsequently spirited away Sunday morning for a girls’ only shopping morning and lunch to get to know each other better—while Benedict is stuck with Laura’s brother Steve. However, Benedict is sanguine about Laura’s cheeky brother Steve. Benedict just hopes that Laura isn’t too overwhelmed by his sister Lexi—who is a force of nature in his eyes.
As Lexi and Laura have a nice girls’ only chat over a light lunch at a nearby Hannigan’s Restaurant, Lexi notices Laura’s intricately designed heirloom quality antique Victorian era tri-colored gold locket [(2) below] hanging from her neck.
Lexi: “That is a lovely old and traditional locket, Laura Dear. May I?” Lexi reaches toward Laura and Laura nods her assent for Lexi to lift up the locket for a closer look. “Is it a family piece?” She asks before releasing her hold on the locket.
Lexi wonders if the locket is an heirloom or if Laura bought it at an estate auction. It’s not uncommon for collectors to acquire jewelry at estate sales, rather than having lovely pieces handed down within the family. Especially, if that family did not have the where-with-all to purchase such fine jewelry at a dear cost, 75 to 100 years ago and more. Fine jewelry can add a sense of elegance and refinement to anyone’s ordinary or poor ancestors.
Laura: “Yes, it’s a family heirloom. My Grandmama Leicester gave it to me when I was younger. She said that her mother-in-law who emigrated from England, Anna Emmeline Gilbert Leicester, gave it to her.” Laura opens the locket to reveal a man’s image painted in miniature and wearing 19th Century era clothing [(3) below]. “That’s my Great Grandfather Gilbert Leicester. Steve looks quite like him. Don’t you think, Lexi?”
Lexi: “The resemblance is extraordinary!” Lexi peers closely at the locket image.
Of course in Lexi’s mind, doppelganger images several generations apart within the same family often point to close family marital connections—most often found in aristocratic and royal families, with cousins marrying cousins in a relatively small gene pool.
Laura: “It is said that all the Leicester men share an uncanny resemblance to one another.”
Lexi: “Ah! And Leicester is rather a unique surname.” Lexi says slowly, while also wondering about the Gilbert surname as well.
Laura: “Yes. It’s a bit of a family riddle. You see, my great grandparents had to run away from Leicester, England in order to marry since neither set of parents approved of their marriage.”
Lexi: “Oh? Why didn’t their parents approve?” Lexi is very curious now.
Laura: “I don’t know exactly. My Grandfather never said anything about his Father–and he died twelve years ago, leaving Steve and I to wonder about it. All I know is that my great grandparents were married on the ship the day they embarked on their voyage to America, and they chose Leicester for their new surname—and spelled their name like the town they emigrated from—to retain some small connection to home in England.”
Lexi: “And was your Great Grandfather a farmer?” Lexi asks wincingly—since many people emigrating from their home country were often seeking to better their financial circumstances.
Laura: “No. I was told that my Great Grandfather was a very learned man. And after serving as a private tutor for five years in a wealthy home in New York, he was recommended and subsequently hired as an Assistant Professor of Classics at the university that the wealthy parents’ youngest son matriculated to five years later.” Laura recites this account from memory, almost by rote, as Lexi notices.
Lexi: “And they never again had contact with their English families?” Thoughts are swirling in Lexi’s mind—not all of them plausible, but certainly possible. Well, at least less fantastical than her usual flights of fancy.
Laura: “Not that I know of. It is a mystery!” Laura smiles and shrugs her shoulders. “I have tried to do a little genealogical digging on my own and have learned of several Gilbert and Leicester families living near Leicester on my great Grandmama’s side during her childhood—but they only had sons—so I must keep looking. And without knowing my Great Grandfather’s true surname, I fear that it will be a near impossible task to find his and our family ancestors—let alone, any other living descendants. You see, it’s just Steve and I now.”
Lexi: “Shall I look into it for you, Laura Dear? Our family knows of some Gilberts and Leicesters as well?” Lexi is thinking of the Viscount Harrington Gilberts and the Earl of Leicester. Could it be that Laura is of noble blood—or at least, shirt tail relations to it? That would make Laura marrying her brother Benedict, a more appropriate match. “I could ask Mama to seek information about any lost Gilbert or Leicester ancestors.”
And it might very well turn out that Laura’s ancestors were employed as servants and that is why they used those names, and not at all that Laura and Steve are related to the Gilbert and Leicester aristocratic families.
Laura: “That would be wonderful! Thank you, Lexi!” Laura smiles congenially at her soon to be sister-in-law Lexi. And Laura feels much less trepidation about meeting Benedict’s parents and the rest of his family since Lexi has welcomed her to their family so warmly.
The same cannot be said—of familial congeniality—for the boys, with Steve Leicester accompanying Benedict Somerset to the seminary campus. Benedict has to pick up the final papers to grade that his seminary students had dropped off for him. Steve remained silent as he accompanied Benedict to his department office—greeting a few people that Benedict introduced him to. Steve observes the taciturn Benedict’s professional interactions–and he notes the respect that his soon to be brother-in-law Benedict receives in those interactions.
And Laura could not have chosen in her fiancé Benedict a less loquacious individual who so neatly matches her brother Steve’s general demeanor. Though neither man will acknowledge that similarity of reserve that they share. Walking back to Benedict’s car, they make small talk. With Steve finally making an effort at conversation.
Steve: “This is a well maintained campus.” Steve is being polite, not effusive. He rarely does effusive. Steve holds his energies and his emotions in check—except for teasing British society matrons like Lady Bath. If there were ever a perfect example to insure caution, it is his sister Laura’s past experience with marriage and divorce. And Steve will not let her be hurt again, if he can help it.
Benedict: “Yes, the park like landscaping will be quite colorful once it is in full bloom this Summer.” And such is his nature, Benedict describes the campus park without being evaluative. Then Benedict’s curiosity takes over. “Have you visited Laura in the Chicago area often?” With both Steve’s home city of NYC and Laura’s of Chicago having airport hubs, transportation to an from should be fairly simple.
Steve: “Just once. When helped her move in after her divorce was finalized.” Benedict raises a querying eyebrow. “With my schedule of court cases being unpredictable for my time off, it has just worked out better that Laura travels to stay with me for our family visits.”
Or that it is more convenient for Steve, and less so for Laura, thinks Benedict.
Benedict: “I see. Yet you managed to drop everything and fly to your sister now.” Benedict imperceptibly tilts his head, whilst curiously observing Laura’s brother Steve.
Steve: “Well I would say it was warranted—what with my sister Laura getting engaged without warning, and her planning to marry in one week to someone whom I haven’t even met yet. Though Laura is my elder sister by four years, I have always felt like her protector—especially during her divorce and its fallout.”
Benedict: “I appreciate your protectiveness about Laura. But when she and I met, she appeared so self assured and self contained, that I thought that she was impervious to seeking out close relationships.”
Steve: “You mean, more so than yourself?” Steve looks assessingly at Benedict.
Benedict: “Touche! She and I seem to have brought each other out of our respective shells. And I thank my good fortune that Laura was patient enough–over the course of our getting to know each other, over several weeks–until I let down my own guard and we became friends. And then, as we spent time even more together, we fell in love.” Benedict blushes slightly in stating that his love for Laura–even though it is her brother whom he is speaking to.
Steve: “Yes, yes, that is the situation.” Steve states rather more brusquely than he intends. Afterall, if Laura marries this fellow, they have to get along. “Now it is time for us to discuss the prenup.” Benedict squints queryingly—him not having to think about such a think prior to Laura. “What you Brits might refer to as the marital agreements.” Steve explains.
Benedict: “A prenup? Isn’t a prenup setting up Laura and I for failure? By codifying our marital exit procedures and conditions?”
Steve: “No! As people in your country well know, prenups—called settlement agreements—are designed to protect the lady and the gentleman.”
Benedict: “Well Steve, you seem rather well versed in the matter of marital agreements.” Benedict regally raises his left eyebrow.
Steve: “Well Benedict, I am a lawyer. And currently, I’m specializing in contracts, wills, and trusts.”
Benedict: “I will have to have my attorney review any proposed marital agreements between Laura and myself before I sign anything.” Benedict has his family to think of. And he hopes that Laura will soon be a part of his family. “But proceed with your presentation.”
Steve: “Well, whatever assets and wealth each party brings to the marriage remains their property, exclusively, upon dissolution of the marriage. And in addition to any financial stipulations you may wish to enact for the care of my sister Laura–and any children you have together–during your marriage and should you predecease her, I would like to add a good behavior clause, for you.”
Benedict: “Oh really. Does this have something to do with Laura’s first husband taking a mistress—which precipitated their divorce?”
Steve: Glowering at Benedict’s rather dispassionate accounting of his sister Laura’s devastation, Steve’s response is a clipped staccato of syllables. “It does. I want it specifically written into the marriage contract or agreement that you will be fined 1,000 pounds for each act of infidelity on your part.”
Benedict: Quite naturally feeling insulted by Steve’s accusations, Benedict fumes. “I do not plan to be unfaithful to Laura. I love her. And I am a minister, you know.”
Steve: “It’s not that you will be unfaithful, Benedict—I hope not—but ministers can be flawed people too.” Steve stares down Benedict.
Benedict: “Fidelity is a promise that I will easily keep. I love Laura with all of my heart.” Benedict glares at Steve.
Steve: “Very well. I hope so. But we will keep the fidelity clause, all the same.” Steve dismisses Benedict’s seeming umbrage with a wave of his hand. “As to the exact nature and scope of each party’s wealth or property that you and my sister bring to your marriage, that can be discussed tomorrow. Will that give you enough time to prepare a summary report of your assets—including documentation to verify it?” For Steve must still inform Laura as to the nature and scope of her now enhanced financial assets due to a recently found legacy–that she and Steve have inherited.
Benedict: “Yes. My finances are rather simple with some land and a family trust, my own clergy earnings and investments—as well as, some family heirloom jewelry that are designated for my bride and our descendants for their use during their lifetimes.”
Though simple to Benedict, his financial holdings might seem a tad more complicated to others–except for Steve as a lawyer.
Steve: “Good! Then I will draw up the marital agreement for each of you to review and then sign.” Steve prides himself on his attention to detail. However when Benedict’s Lawyers review the document, Steven might end up relinquishing his crown—of being meticulous in contract negotiations.
Later that Wednesday afternoon, the boys meet up with the girls around 3:00pm at the wedding planner’s office. Then while sitting in the Reception area, both Benedict’s and his sister Lexi’s phone goes off, simultaneously. Startled more due to the ringtones indicating that family is calling, they pick up the calls.
Benedict: “Mama? This is Benedict.”
Duchess Elizabeth: “Oh Benedict! You must come home to England now!” She collapses in tears before she can say why Benedict is needed at home.
Lexi: “Edmund? what is going on? Mama is crying on the phone with Benedict.” Edmund is their eldest brother and heir to their father’s Exmoor Dukedom. Having heard her mother’s incoherent breakdown, Lexi makes a decision. “I’m putting you on speaker. Benedict, his fiance and her brother are here also.”
All four adults—Lexi, Benedict, Laura, and Steve—listen in concern, all huddled together.
Edmund: “Lexi! Benedict! Thank god that I have reached you both!” Then he composes himself, somewhat. “Three hours ago, Papa left after tea to take a drive with Caleb in the jeep around the estate grounds. And they had just reached the edge of the woods—as we were waving them off—and there was a car accident. From what Papa told us, he may have had a small heart attack or stroke, and when Papa became unconscious, Caleb seems to have released his seat belt to be able to reach over and take hold of the steering wheel. But they hit a tree. We all went running toward them and the staff brought the estate vehicles and notified emergency services. Thank god the airbags deployed! But we don’t know the full extent of their injuries yet. However, they are both hurt badly. The jeep slid down a small ravine and rolled before coming to a stop upright on its tires near the creek bed. Only god knows how Caleb wasn’t flung from the jeep, but he has a bad bruise on his torso from hitting something—maybe the stick shift on the central column. Papa wasn’t so lucky and he was thrown from the vehicle, and the jeep had pinned his lower left leg when we found them.” And his voice quivers, in thinking of his 5 year old son’s grave injuries. “Papa’s left lower leg is quite smashed up–and the doctors don’t know if they can save it. And Caleb has internal injuries that they’re still trying to figure out. And we need you both to come home to see if any of your blood, kidneys, or livers match Caleb’s, just in case he needs an organ transplant.”
Lexi and Benedict: “Of course!” Both Somerset siblings exclaim in urgent yet restrained voices.
Benedict: “Mama and Edmund, we’ll be flying out of Chicago as soon as I can charter a flight home tonight.” The flight cost will be about a $10,000—and it will take all of the liquid funds that Benedict has set aside for his and Laura’s wedding. He turns to her apologetically. “Laura, Darling.”
Laura: “Absolutely, use your funds to get home quickly to your family. No need for us to have a wedding extravaganza.” She gazes into his eyes with her love and support shining through. “And I’m coming with you! My blood type is AB positive, a little rare, but it might help if we need to give blood or something.”
Lexi: “That’s so lovely of you, Laura Dear!” Lexi and Laura hug.
The something in Laura’s mind—if not expressed out loud—is wondering if little Caleb will indeed need an organ transplant. Laura has a friend named Theresa, who out of her own sense of charity and mercy had earlier donated one of her own kidneys to a stranger who had need of it. The example of her friend’s selflessness has remained with Laura ever since. And so, knowing nothing concrete about little Caleb’s health status—but just having women’s intuition—Laura elects not to eat dinner on the plane, nor drink much, just in case she does have to have surgery. Though she does not tell anyone.
After Benedict and Lexi hang up from talking with the Duchess and their brother Edmund, they change cars–with siblings riding together for the trip back to Benedict’s and also Laura’s respective apartments–where Lexi can shower and spend the night if need be while Benedict takes the couch, and Steve will sleep on his sister’s couch after having an important conversation with her about the new legacy he has found that they are inheritors of.
And neither sets of siblings will get much sleep tonight since Benedict is able to charter a private jet that will leave at 7pm Chicago time to travel overnight to London—with Steve insisting to fly out of Chicago the next day on his own on a regular flight, so as not to delay them with dropping him off at NYC tonight.
So with their roughly 7 hour flight from Chicago to London–and the time delay and check-ins through customs and such–they will arrive in London sometime around 8am London time, 14 hours after the accident.
To be continued with Chapter 24
References for “Somerset: A Time to Love”, Ch. 23, December 10, 2017 Gratiana Lovelace (Post #1123)
1) The Somerset: A Time to 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) An example of a lovely tri gold locket was found on Pinterest at https://i.pinimg.com/736x/02/2f/75/022f757997322816122eb4f2211af7ff–victorian-jewelry-antique-jewellery.jpg
3) Oval edit (by Grati) of Chris Pine in the 2014 film “Into the Woods” was found at https://i1.wp.com/clothesonfilm.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/IMAGE-2.jpg
Wattpad Ch. 23 story link:
Previous Ch. 22 blog link, with embedded illustrations: