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, Max Charles as 5 year old Caleb Somerset, and others as noted.]
Author’s recap from the previous chapter: The siblings and in-laws met—Laura and Lexi, and Benedict and Steve—they split up to get to know each other better. Lexi is particularly enamored of Laura’s heirloom tri-color gold locket necklace. Whilst Laura’s brother Steve is interested in insuring that Laura will be financially secure should her marriage to Benedict breakup. But then, Lexi and Benedict receive calls from their family with devastating news. Duke Edward’s leg has been crushed and his little five year old grandson Caleb is grievously injured as well.
“Somerset: A Time to Love”, Chapter 24: Sacrifice
The private plane that Benedict was able to charter to take them from Chicago, Illinois to his injured father and nephew in London, England this night of Wednesday April 24th has VIP class accommodations–including sleeping rooms and full bathroom showering facilities attached to them. However Lexi, Benedict, and Laura can’t envision sleeping. So the three of them each lie back quite comfortably in the reclining seats—with Benedict having again urged both Lexi and Laura to try to get some sleep, however impossible they all think it will be.
And with Benedict and Laura sitting cozily together on a wider loveseat lounger like plane seat, she nestles in to him and dozes off. And Benedict finds comfort in her warm soft form cuddling to him. He is grateful that Laura insisted upon joining him. He is not an emotionally needy man. Benedict’s self enforced solitude and refraining from any personal relationships the last fifteen years was a personal sacrifice that he didn’t realize that he was making—until Laura came into his life.
As Benedict lays his cheek upon the top of his slumbering Laura’s head lying upon his chest and pullling the blanket up higher over them—with his arms holding her fast to him—Benedict feels a sense of peaceful calm descend upon him. His faith has always been a calm place in the face of any storm. But those troubles had been artificial, now that he thinks about it—people resisting inevitable change (such as revised prayer books), judgmental Bishops, or derisive future brother-in-law, etc. Yet, Benedict is not deterred, and he smiles as he gently strokes his sleeping Laura’s back.
This, what he has with Laura–this overwhelming and all encompassing love that he and Laura share—is what Benedict knows will sustain him now during his family’s medical crisis, and into the future. Because with Laura by his side, Benedict feels that he can survive anything—rather than merely existing, as he was doing before he met Laura. For this life that we have been gifted with is precious, and as the Somerset family now knows, that life can be snatched away from them or those they love at any time or altered in a life changing way.
Benedict finally closes his eyes in weariness. The plane cabin is quiet, soothingly so in the nighttime darkness outside the plane—with clouds blurring the night time sky’s stars—and with only the emergency lights and small night lights on in the plane’s main cabin seating area. And Benedict had earlier apprised the plane attendants that they are traveling for a family medical emergency and would not need their catering services. So, Lexi, Benedict, and Laura finally sleep—gathering strength for the morning and the following days which will surely test their limits in ways that they cannot imagine.
Almost as soon as they arrive at the London Hospital the Thursday morning of April 25th— where both their father and nephew are being treated after the car accident on their family estate—Benedict, Lexi, and Laura submitted to blood and other medical tests to see if they were compatible to give Caleb one of their kidney’s or part of their liver. It’s a long shot for Laura—her not being a bloodline family member. But as she discussed with Benedict, she reasoned that if she were a match, her kidney would be a better physical fit for Caleb—since Laura is much smaller of stature than Benedict.
Then Benedict and Laura had briefly stopped into the Children’s ICU wing to greet his brother Edmund and sister-in-law Angharad Somerset, who were sitting by their five year old son and only child Caleb’s bedside. Caleb is in a drug induced sleep due to the pain he is experiencing from his severely damaged bodily organs. He will need both a liver transplant and a kidney transplant. And those donated organs cannot come from the same person—however perfect the match is—due to transplant rules for the protection of donors. Caleb looks wan and pale—and so small in his regulation sized hospital bed.
And Benedict has never seen Caleb look so still. Caleb usually is in constant motion running and sliding down the long castle marble hallways or impishly [(2) below] chattering away about his pets, his school friends, and that he wants to be an emergency helicopter pilot like Prince William. Sadly Caleb is under sedation for his emergency helicopter ride into London Hospital after the car crash. Caleb is full of energy, except for now, when Caleb’s little body is fighting to live. Benedict and his older brother Edmund share grim gazes with each other—while his sister-in-law Angharad quietly weeps, and Laura embraces her in trying to console her.
About 20 minutes later in this agonizing morning, Benedict is ushered into his father’s hospital room as Laura clasps Benedict’s hand in support. Duke Edward lies in his stark white linen hospital bed, his eyes closed, his arms lying at his side. Benedict has never seen his vigorous 85 year old father looking so frail and gaunt. The Duke has yet to wake up from the anesthesia according to Benedict’s distraught mother, Duchess Elizabeth.
The date prior—some 8 hours ago now–the Duke’s left leg had been amputated below the knee, from it being crushed in the wreckage of the car accident that also threatens the life of his only inheritor grandson, 5 year old Caleb. For Caleb is second in line to inherit the Dukedom– after his father the Marquess of Exmoor, Edmund Somerset, the Duke’s eldest son.
Benedict is the Duke of Exmoor’s younger son—and technically he is third in line for the Dukedom. But Benedict has never aspired to be the Duke after their father and his brother dies, and he does not do so now. Caleb has always been the hope for the continuation of their Ducal family heritage. And they will not relinquish that hope now, even though Caleb’s injuries are very grave.
Benedict pulls a chair up to his father’s bed and reaches through the guard rails to take his father’s hand in his as Benedict sits down facing him. And Benedict begins to pray the 23rd Psalm aloud, but softly.
Benedict: “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. …” Benedict is interrupted.
Duke Edward: “I do appreciate the sentiment, My Boy. But I am not on death’s door yet! You should begin by greeting me.” Ever the stickler for protocol, the Duke turns up a loving smile and opens his eyes briefly, then closes them again.
Benedict: “Papa!” Benedict whispers forcefully, while standing up and gently embracing his father over his shoulders and kissing his cheek.
The exclamation causes his family to rush into the Duke’s quasi private ICU cubicle room, via the floor to ceiling curtain providing the slimmest of barriers separating the Duke’s room from the hallway, for greater access to the nurses’ station. Caleb’s quasi private ICU is in the floor above where his parents sit in vigil over him, and accessed by the nearby elevator.
Laura hangs back in the hallway. She doesn’t know if she should intrude on this private family moment—her having only just been quickly introduced to them by Lexi as Benedict had strode quickly into his father’s ICU room.
Duchess Elizabeth: “Edward, My Love!” Duchess Elizabeth rushes forward to her husband in in tears, fearing the worst for her him. Benedict lowers the bed rail for his petite mother and steps back to allow her to be nearer to his Father.
Duke Edward: “Present.” Said weakly by him, yet in his usual mirthful tone.
Duchess Elizabeth fiercely clutches her husband’s face. Then he slowly opens his eyes. Her hovering over him as she gently drops a kiss upon his lips, gives the Duke a fulsome view of his lovely wife. Then she gently embraces him before looking him in the eyes again.
Duchess Elizabeth: “I thought you were dead!” She wails, her tears fall upon his face and she gently wipes them away for him.
Duke Edward: “Not yet.” Then he grimaces in pain from his operation that had amputated his left lower leg. “The Lord seems to be taking me in pieces. Hurts like the devil. Could someone please bring me a nurse with some of those lovely drugs?”
The Duke’s surgeon, Dr. Fox, steps into Duke Edward’s cubicle.
Dr. Fox: “Glad to see you up and about, Your Grace.”
Duke Edward: “Well, not yet. I need some pain medicine. And don’t mention me being up around the children.” He asks—referring to his aroused reaction to his wife laying over him—with the children being his all over 45 year old offspring standing around his bed. The doctor turns and asks the nurse to bring Duke Edward’s pain medicine. “Speaking of children, how is my grandson Caleb.”
Dr. Fox: “He’s being prepped for surgery to start in the next half hour.”
Duke Edward smiles in relief and closes his eyes again as the nurse administers the pain meds to his IV. Later when the Duke’s vital signs are stabilized and he is moved to a true private room with walls and a door, he will have a pain pump giving him pain medicine at regular intervals. For now, the nurses administer his medicine to him.
While Caleb’s Mother stays by her son’s side, Edmund Somerset, Marquess of Exmoor, has quickly dashed down the elevator to the next floor and to his Father’s cubicle. And seeing Laura standing in the hallway, he bows to her and kisses her hand with utmost courtesy. Then Edmund guides Laura into the now very crowded ICU cubicle of Duke Edward. Laura makes her way to Benedict’s side and he brings her into his arms and embraces her—with his left arm remaining around her back. Laura gazes up at Benedict adoringly.
Everyone is delighted at Edmund’s news that Caleb will be able to have his kidney transplant surgery to save his life, and much hugging of the family ensues. Edmund was just told the new a few minutes ago and that is why he raced downstairs to his father’s ICU cubicle.
Benedict: “That’s wonderful! Which of us matched for Caleb?” He eagerly asks the doctor. Benedict hopes that it is him. Benedict is very close to his very young nephew. Afterall, Caleb pestering Benedict to be more fun, lead Benedict to his fiancé Laura.
Dr. Fox: “Since it is one of your family members–who has waived confidentiality—I may reveal that to you.” Everyone leans a bit forward waiting to hear the news. “It is the Baroness Exmoor.”
Benedict and his family blink, because Benedict and Laura are not married yet—so her impending title of Baroness of Exmoor is being somewhat precipitously used in this instance. But then Benedict remembers that in his introductions to the hospital staff, Benedict had mentioned their affianced status.
Much hugging and cheek kissing of Laura ensues. Then the Duke coughs—not in distress, but in one of his pay attention to me coughs.
Duke Edward: Duke Edward coughs, gaining everyone’s attention. “Benedict My Boy, Shouldn’t you be introducing us to your lady?”
Benedict: “Of course! Papa? May I present my betrothed, Miss Laura Leicester.
Laura: Leaning slightly toward her future father-in-law after a quickly dipped head bow, Laura clasps his hand in hers and smiles at him. “Your Grace, it is an honor to meet you.” Her voice is firm and melodious.
Duke Edward: “The honor and debt are mine, My Dear. For you shall help heal our wonderful grandson Caleb. I wish that I could stand and bow to you, My Dear. But I fear that my standing days are over.” He sighs in despair.
Laura: “Thank you, Your Grace. I am simply glad that I can help. And I highly doubt that you will never stand again. Benedict has told me of your steely determination and that your vigor is legendary.” She smiles at him encouragingly as Benedict squeezes her shoulders comfortingly and his family looks on smiling at her audience with her future father-in-law. Even now, Laura can glimpse Duke Edward’s steely determination and mirthful demeanor—and she conjures an image in her mind of what Duke Edward must be like when he is well [(3) below].
Duke Edward: “Ignore my depression, My Dear. It is merely an old man coming to grips with losing his lower leg.” His face is sad—as well it should be—and his family looks upon him with compassion.
Then Laura takes her other hand and encloses the Duke’s gnarled but powerful hand in hers caressingly as she leans down to whisper into his ear.
Laura: “I’m sorry.” Laura says sincerely. “Yes, but I have heard that you are an eminently practical man—and as tenacious as an Irish wolfhound. So I surmise that you will no doubt negotiate a 50 per cent discount on future shoe and boot purchases, since you only have need of the right shoe or boot.”
Laura stands back up and then winks at the Duke. Her waiting to see if her compassionate wit has aided or insulted the Duke. It is the former as the Duke barks out a small laugh.
Duke Edward: “Ha! Well said! And I might just do that.”
Do what? Benedict and his family quizzically look at each other in astonishment for their father’s good mood—for they could not hear Laura’s whispered words to the Duke.
Then a nurse in surgical garb intrudes upon the family scene.
Nurse Banner: “Miss Laura Leicester?” Laura marvels that everyone in England pronounces her last name correctly. Well, of course they do.
Laura: “I’m here, I’m ready.” Laura nods with resignation. Yes she wholeheartedly agreed to donate one of her kidneys to her future nephew Caleb—her being amazed that she is a match for him. But any surgery is still daunting. Then Laura turns to Benedict, who folds her in his arms embracingly.
Benedict: “Thank you, Laura.” Benedict whispers meaningfully to Laura. His heart is full of hope for his little nephew Caleb, but is also concerned for Laura.
Duke Edward: “Well give her a kiss, My Boy!” The Duke says weakly but somewhat animatedly. “You’ve caught yourself quite a lady.”
Benedict: “I have, Papa!” Benedict leans down and pulls Laura even more closely to him as he kisses her sweetly, tenderly, lovingly, adoringly, and with heartfelt abandon—for several minutes. So much so that Benedict’s family claps and chuckles in them bearing witness to their usually dignified and reserved brother’s and son’s passionate display.
Nurse Banner: “Kkhhh! My apologies for interrupting, but we must get Miss Leicester prepared for the kidney donation surgery.”
After slowly breaking their kiss, Laura gazes up at Benedict—and then at each of her soon to be family members. Lexi and Duchess Elizabeth gently hug Laura.
Laura: “I’m ready.”
As all but Duchess Elizabeth—who remains at her husband’s side—file into the hallway as Laura is lead away, they see Edmund rush to the side of his wife as she accompanies their son in his hospital bed also being lead to surgery. Benedict will see them both soon, but for now, he takes Laura’s hand and walks with her toward the surgical area, until he may go no farther. And as she is being lead through large double doors of the surgical wing, Laura turns and mouths “I love you” to Benedict. And he mouths “I love you” to her.
Then realizing that she must remove all of her jewelry before surgery, Laura dashes back to Benedict and slips her engagement ring from him to her, upon his pinkie finger. And she also places her gold locket in his hands. These are precious gifts of family heritage and love that she would not want to go missing or be inadvertently damaged. Benedict nods, and unsheepishly slips her gold locket necklace over his head and lets it hang over his heart, under his shirt.
Benedict: “I will keep them safe for you. Then return them to you at the earliest possible moment, My Darling.”
Laura: “Thank you, for everything! I love you with my whole heart, Benedict.”
Benedict: “As I love you.” They kiss briefly.
Laura: “But if for some reason, something happens to me …” Laura’s voice trails off as her natural worry takes hold.
Benedict: “I will not allow that.” Benedict will not allow god to sacrifice Laura. And he will pray long and hard for both his nephew Caleb and for his fiancé Laura to come through safely.
Laura: “Even so. You must promise me to cherish our love by finding love again. For I could not rest easily with the thought of you alone, as you were before.”
Benedict: “Willful witch! Must you always have your way?” He says playfully, but there is sadness in his voice.
Benedict: “Hhhh! I promise.” He says with a heavy heart. But he knows that he could never love anyone after Laura.”
After Laura is lead away, Benedict stands there in the hallway for several minutes. Then he realizes that with the bustling hospital around him that he is an obstacle in their paths. So he relents and returns to his family in the nearby family waiting room near his father’s ICU cubicle. Then Edmund returns to fetch Benedict to sit with he and Angharad at the surgical waiting room. Lexi follows them while Duchess Elizabeth waits with her husband Duke Edward—after both were promised timely updates about Caleb’s transplant operation as soon as their children have any news. And they all wait to hear the outcome of Laura donating one of her kidneys to little Caleb.
And Lexi having the presence of mind in this difficult situation, she suggests to Benedict that she contact Laura’s brother Steve about Laura’s operation—in case she had not had a chance to reach him. When they had all left the United States heading to London with such haste, they could not have imagined that Laura would be having surgery. But the kind hearted and loving person that Laura is has put herself into harm’s way, for little Caleb’s sake.
And after receiving Lexi’s brief call, Steve Leicester is naturally distraught about his sister Laura being a living kidney donor—as opposed to Caleb receiving his organ transplant from a person who died in an accident and their family donated their organs. The organ transplant surgery is not without its risks and effects upon the forty year old Laura. And for Steve, Laura is the only family he has.
To be continued with Chapter 25
References for “Somerset: A Time to Love”, Ch. 24, December 17, 2017 Gratiana Lovelace (Post #1125)
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) Caleb small smile younger was of actor Max Charles, found at; https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon https://vignette.wikia.nocookie.net/lab-rats/images/e/e4/Max_Charles_2.jpg/revision/latest?cb=20150715155343
3) Image representing Edward Somerset is actor Charles Dance and was found at http://wordofthenerdonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/20/actor-charles-dance-ao-1426292662.jpg
Wattpad Ch. 24 story link:
Previous Ch. 23 blog link, with embedded illustrations: