Lot goes to confession and finds herself with questions.

Content Warning: Sexual humour.

New chapter every day 1st – 16th October 2022 then Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.

London – 1838

The panel in the confessional slid open. ‘Have you considered Protestantism?’ Father Brennan said, peering through the grill.

‘They sent me back,’ I replied putting my back against the confessional wall; there was only one man I’d get on my knees for, and it wasn’t God. ‘You’re supposed to pretend you don’t know who I am.’

‘The confessional is a serious business, not so you can avail of a chat whenever you feel like it,’ his tone was more exasperated than angry, I suspect Father Brennan was worried about my immortal soul whatever he said. ‘What have you done this time?’

‘Fornication for money. Is fornicating the correct term?’ I asked, picking at the split skin on one of my thumbs. ‘I have plenty more. There’s your basic: riding, docking, rogering. Amusing; the feather bed jig. Religious: carnal knowledge or, my personal favourite, riding Saint George -’

‘What’s riding Saint…’ he began. ‘Forget I asked.’

‘It’s where the woman –‘

‘I don’t want to know. Forget it.’

‘You know me, Father, I can’t forget anything.’ I picked up the kneeler from where I should’ve been kneeling at the grill, it had rounded indentations from years of sinners’ knees.

Father Brennan’s bench groaned as he shifted about. ‘You were saying about your sins…’

‘Oh, well, this man has been paying for “carnal knowledge”,’ I continued. ‘Is the correct phrasing? Anyway, how many Hail Marys is that?’

‘Are you going to say them if I tell you?’ he asked, his Dublin accent becoming more pronounced. ‘Will you repent at all?’

‘Unlikely.’ I shrugged, despite knowing he couldn’t see it. ‘I’m damned whatever I do, I might as well enjoy it.’

‘So you enjoyed… being with this man?’

I grinned. ‘Father, the celibacy is getting to you.’

He made a noise that sounded suspiciously like a smothered laugh.

‘He’s very lonely, not got much of an opinion of himself, easy mark,’ I said, fiddling with the rosary on my wrist. ‘Does that make it more or less sinful? Now I think on it; what’s more sinful, sex for money or sex for gratification? Or is it all much of a muchness? He’s a good man and he pays very well. How’s that on a scale of sin?’

His silhouette shook its head. ‘He’s a good man but he pays to sin with you?’

‘At least he pays,’ I muttered, tugging on the end of my rosary.

‘If you don’t want absolution why do you come here, Lot?’

‘Who else am I going to talk to?’ I asked. ‘I don’t have any friends and you can’t tell anyone lest you vex God and we wouldn’t be wanting that now.’

Even his silences were disapproving.

‘You haven’t answered my question,’ I observed.

He sighed again and squeezed the bridge of his nose. ‘Sex is for the confines of marriage, for the procreation of children –’

‘He can’t have children,’ I interrupted.

‘Sex without love is an act of murder,’ he continued as if I hadn’t spoken.

I got onto my knees to grip the edge of the window and peer through the grill at him. ‘No wonder you chose celibacy, you were doing it wrong.’ I shook my head. ‘Does it not make it less sinful if you’re making the other person feel better in some way?’

‘That’s back to sex for gratification, Lot, don’t play the fool.’

‘That’s not what I meant. Something very bad, I don’t know what yet, must’ve happened to him. On the inside he’s like those little porcelain cups rich ladies drink from.’ I sat back down. ‘It’s not so much the sex, I think, he feels guilty about that. I mean… What do I mean?’

‘You mean he’s in love with you, I take it.’

‘That’s the one.’ I grinned. ‘See? It’s not sex without love. Besides, I don’t think the sex is essential on his part, but he has the same urges as any man and… You know me, Father.’

‘You know how to strike a man’s weak spots,’ he muttered.

‘So, if I’m the sinful one is it less sinful for him?’ I asked.

The bench creaked as Father Brennan shifted closer. ‘Are you asking these questions for your own conscience or his?’

‘I don’t have a conscience,’ I said. ‘I thought we’d established that a long time ago.’

‘Intellectual curiosity then,’ he suggested.

‘More like it.’ I fiddled with my rosary, there were flecks of rust on the little Christ. ‘If God is so loving and forgiving, why would he make it so sinful for a man to have a little joy in his life?’

‘By paying a young woman for sinful acts?’

‘I can’t charge him for hand holding, can I now, Father?’ I said. ‘I’m not a complete shit-sack.’

‘If this man really loved you and wished for your relationship to be acceptable then he’d marry you and make it acceptable in the eyes of God,’ Father Brennan persisted.

‘What if, said man, thought it was worse to marry a woman? Say he had so little opinion of himself he thought he was trapping her like a rabbit in a snare.’

Father Brennan considered this for a very long time. ‘You have me there. Why would a man think that if a woman chose to be with him? I assume you give that impression.’

‘It’s not an impression. I’m not a public ledger.’ Though I didn’t bother to feign offence; I didn’t expect a priest to see the distinction and I didn’t care if he did. Anyone who could read a newspaper would be assured all poor women were prostitutes, so I was damned from the start. Not that I was poor anymore, I realised. It was a strange thought.

‘I’m getting a headache,’ he muttered.

‘So, you don’t have a helpful answer then?’ I asked.

‘Well… no. Were it not for the sinful circumstances I might advise love and support but that seems like condoning.’ His head bumped against the back of the confessional. ‘Why can’t you be like the rest of my congregation; just show up, confess sins, and ask absolution?’

‘Who else would brighten your day?’

He snorted.

I took my cap out of my pocket and put it on, careful to make sure none of my hair had escaped my stiletto pin.

Father Brennan sighed heavily and he put his square-jawed face closer to the grill. ‘Can I persuade you to consider absolution?’

‘Only if you pay me.’ I got to my feet. ‘Absolution won’t feed the masses.’

Dramatic pink and purple clouds transposed over the face of a woman. Text: Not a Hero. A Different Kind of Monster. Victorian Mistress: Revised Edition. Click For More Chapters.

Lot, Bran, and Josef image by Misterleaves

Cloud Image by Debasish Vishal of Pixels

Published by Jesse

Jesse Stuart is the writer of the Book of Lot series and Writing: Back to Basics. She specialises in writing theory; the study of how and why writing techniques work and the different ways we can apply them. It was this research that formed the basis for Writing: Back to Basics.

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