In the first part for our two week Fiction Frenzy Charlotte confronts Father Brennan with his secret.
London – 1840
Father Brennan was on his knees at the altar rail praying. Every bit the pious priest. I scraped my foot along the stone floor.
He tensed. ‘You shouldn’t sneak around like that?’
I stopped and tucked my thumbs into my knife belt. ‘You’re lucky it was me. Anyone can get in here.’
‘All are welcome in God’s house.’
‘And that’s how you get robbed blind.’
‘A little trust wouldn’t go amiss, Lot,’ he said.
‘Trust is earned, Father.’ I smiled. ‘A rare commodity.’
He crossed himself and got up. ‘The plans for the school were delivered.’ He stepped up to the altar, and picked up one of the silver candlesticks. ‘I’m surprised, I didn’t think you’d go through with it.’
‘I’m a woman of my word.’
He pulled a handkerchief from his cassock and rubbed the base of the candlestick. ‘An honourable criminal?’
I stepped up to the altar rail, but didn’t cross it. ‘A priest with children?’
He stopped polishing and stared at his reflection in the silver. ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about.’ His Dublin accent had turned thick as tar.
‘Haven’t you read the papers, Father?’ I asked. ‘There’s no corruption The Reaper can’t dig out.’
He couldn’t have expected me to find out that two of the three children I’d adopted were his. If it hadn’t been for Bran and Josef’s vampire noses I wasn’t sure I would have. Father Brennan didn’t know they were vampires so could pick out the similarities in our blood and I wasn’t going to tell him. He might not be enamoured at the idea of his daughters living with a vampire; the first one Father Brennan had seen tried to eat me in front of him. Bran like to eat me, but not in that way.
‘I wouldn’t expect you to understand,’ he muttered and rubbed the base of the candlestick vigorously.
I raised my eyebrows.
‘We fell in love,’ he said and stopped attacking the candlestick with his handkerchief. ‘It was… It wasn’t the same…’
Still I said nothing.
His grip tightened. ‘Her husband wasn’t a bad man. He didn’t deserve it. I wasn’t even sure until… Mary’s hair.’ He nodded in my direction. ‘I suggested Mary to her father but he preferred Maribelle. He said a girl could go far with a name like Maribelle.’
It was difficult to keep my expression neutral. Having sex with a man’s wife, fathering his children then suggesting a name to the fella after his wife died in childbirth. That was a level of arseholery that even Josef and I could only aspire to.
‘It was the name that gave it away wasn’t it? A little redheaded Mary. I’m sure you’d sneer at the sentiment.’ He sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. ‘We were punished for our sins.’
‘She was,’ I said. ‘Though, I suspect, God has more important things to do than police people’s sex lives.’
‘You hope.’ He put the candlestick down. ‘You can’t compare what we had with what you…’ He shook his head. ‘We were both bound by vows we made before we met. Things might’ve been different otherwise. It’s not the same.’
I tapped my ring finger against my hip, my wedding band was on a chain around my neck, hidden beneath my jerkin and safe from harm. I might not have made the vows but I wouldn’t break them. Except the obey bit, Bran wouldn’t expect me to make that one anyway.
‘Stop looking at me like that,’ he said. ‘I confessed my sins and repented which is more than you’ve ever done.’
‘So sex with love is still a sin.’
He opened and closed his mouth for a moment. ‘Sex outside of marriage is a sin. Adultery, jealousy, coveting.’
‘You only said sex without love was a sin.’
‘Yes, but…’ He sighed. ‘You don’t understand.’ He stepped towards me but stopped short. ‘I don’t want damnation for my little sister.’
‘How considerate,’ I said.
‘I want to keep you safe.’
I looked up at the vaulted ceiling, then realised what a Bran-ish gesture it was and looked back at him. ‘You are such a disappointment.’
His face fell.
I turned and walked away.
‘I’m sorry, Mary,’ he called after me.
‘That’s not my name, Father.’
The church door made an impressive bang in my wake.
This is the first part of Jesse’s Studio’s Fiction Frenzy there will be a new episode of Victorian Mistress everyday from 4th June until 17th June 2017.