We’re counting down to the finale of Victorian Mistress and Lot pays a visit to Father Brennan.
London – 1842
Father Brennan walked down the aisle, knelt and crossed himself in front of the altar then turned and scowled at me. ‘Are you speaking to me again?’
‘I have been speaking to you when necessary,’ I replied, rubbing my rosary between my fingers. ‘In a moment of indecision I’m turning to God.’
He snorted and slid into the pew beside me. ‘You’re the least indecisive person I’ve ever met.’
‘I’ve never had a reason to be indecisive before. Now I have too many.’ My wooden rosary beads clacked together as they slid through my fingers. ‘There’s something I have to do and whichever way it plays out someone I love is going to get hurt. And not bruises hurt, deep emotional hurt.’
He considered me for a moment.
‘You don’t have the monopoly on love, Jimmy.’ I looked up at Jesus hanging from his cross above the altar framed by glass saints and dared them to say something. They didn’t, they never did. ‘Is my relationship with Bran still a sin or does love save it?’
‘I never thought you’d actually fall in love with him,’ he said, looking at my wedding ring. ‘I didn’t… That’s unfair of me.’
‘Why stop being unfair now?’ I shift to meet his gaze.
‘Really?’ I said. ‘And you weren’t?’
He looked away and frowned at the altar. ‘I didn’t want –‘
I stared at his profile. ‘I don’t care what you wanted or what you meant, Jimmy. All those years telling me how sinful I was for the same sin you’d committed was cruel.’
‘It wasn’t cruelty that made you angry.’
‘True, doesn’t mean I can’t point it out.’ I traced the swirls on the wooden pew for a moment. ‘Hypocrisy. I hate hypocrisy, Father.’
His jaw worked and I had no doubt it vexed him that I should draw a comparison between us. Personally I thought it was more unfair on my side, Bran and I lived out of wedlock but he wasn’t married. On the other hand my brother was bound by a vow of chastity and had two illegitimate children with a married woman. Sex was the only area of sin where Father Brennan defeated me. I’d made a study of sin.
‘I suppose I came to the wrong place,’ I said. ‘You claimed to love me then showed utter contempt for me. You’re not the person to ask about making decisions. I could never do that to Bran, the crux of the problem, I suppose. You can’t protect the people you love from everything.’
‘Sounds as though the result is the same whatever decision you make,’ he said.
‘Not quite the same,’ I replied and wrapped my rosary around my wrist. ‘It’s complicated.’
‘I’m your priest. You can tell me your secrets and I can’t tell anyone else.’
I gave him the serious ‘you’re in trouble’ look I’d developed for use on the children. I couldn’t use my push-me-and-I’ll-kill-you look on everyone, especially if they’d only knocked over the biscuit box.
Father Brennan hung his head and scowled at the floor. My annoyed look must’ve been coming together.
‘I’m avoiding action, it’s very unlike me,’ I muttered. ‘Listening to emotions complicates things.’
He chuckled. ‘You don’t have to tell me.’ His hand found mine where it rested on the back of the pew and squeezed.
‘For the first time in my life I’m happy and I want Bran to be happy but… I could ruin everything.’ I got to my feet. ‘It has to be done. It’s the only way.’
‘What has to be done?’
‘I can’t let him carry on the way he is so I have to stop him,’ I said. ‘No-one else will do anything.’
‘Stop who? Bran? Someone else?’ Brennan followed me. ‘Are you going to do something foolish, Lot?’
‘That’s on way to look at it,’ I replied, heading for the door. ‘I’m not sure why I came here.’ I shrugged. ‘Just needed to think, I suppose.’
‘You didn’t come make your peace, did you?’ he asked at the door.
‘Don’t be so bloody dramatic. Anyone would think I was going to die.’ I paused and leaned against the heavy oak frame. ‘I’m going to play the hero and save the day, but not that heroic. I have limits.’
‘I’m sure they all say that,’ he said. ‘You’d better not die, your soul still needs saving.’
‘Wouldn’t a heroic death do that?’
‘I’d rather not find out.’
I grinned. ‘Oh, I’ll be back again to bother you. It’s too much fun not to be.’ I walked away and waved over my shoulder at him.