At the Inlet: July, Part 1 (Romance at the Dean’s Table)

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The Sunday after her presentation to the royal family was Terry’s first time back in the Cathedral since her visit in March.  The Cathedral’s high-church splendour had not dimmed since that time.  Since it was the first Sunday of the month, the Holy Communion was celebrated; Dean Desmond Lewis, better known as “the Canon,” was the celebrant.  The Bishop was in Alemara, making his way to Point Collina to witness the consecration of Raymond des Cieux as the new Catholic Bishop of Verecunda.  The Anglicans in the former Verecundan territories were still sorting out their future; the Bishop was involved in that also.

The service finished, the King and Queen returned to the palace, but the Canon and his wife Priscilla had invited George, Darlene and Terry to the deanery for lunch to welcome Terry.  They also invited the Reverend Julian Lewis, Desmond’s older brother, who was the Organist and Choirmaster, to join in.  Julian was a thin man without the best posture, about 5 centimetres taller than Terry with blue eyes and untidy medium coloured hair with streaks of white interspersed.

Once everyone was at the Deanery, it was Priscilla’s task to seat everyone at table.  Darlene usually liked for Terry to sit with her, but Priscilla got a flash of genius, and seated Terry next to Julian, who was in turn next to his brother at the head of the table.  Opposite of Julian and Terry were George and Darlene; although the latter was momentarily miffed, she too received the same flash of genius.  Priscilla was at the other end with her three children.

Once Desmond returned thanks, the meal began.  George and the Canon always had something to talk about; Priscilla and Darlene interacted with the children, but kept one eye open each to the remaining guests.

“Isn’t your full Christian name Theresa Anne?” Julian asked Terry.

“Why, yes it is…I haven’t been called that in years.  Hardly anyone in Drahla ever knew that.”

“I think it’s a lovely name.”

“Thank you.”

“And you received it when you were baptised at St. Sebastian Church in Point Collina, where you grew up and were confirmed.”

“That’s right.  It’s been a long time.”

“And I also understand that you were twice Honourable Mention in the national elementary piano competitions in Verecunda?”

“I was,” Terry answered.  She found this review of her life a little disorienting, even after her session with the Intelligence Service.  “I’ve hardly played since.”

“What a pity,” Julian said.  “I remember being in university with Cynthia Drouillet.  Didn’t her mother Elaine teach you piano?”

“She certainly did…you know quite a lot, don’t you?  Where’s Cynthia these days?”

“She’s head of the music department at the University of Verecunda—her husband is Liam Gallen.”

“Seamus’ brother…their old foreign minister.  I wonder if Liam’s a Druid like Seamus.”

“I’m not sure, really”

“Well, I’m surprised there’s something you don’t know.”  Terry gave Julian an irritated look.

“There’s one interesting fact about you that’s as plain as your face,” Julian said.

“And what might that be?”

“Your grandmother, Ling Shu-Yi—surely you look a lot like her, with your dark, Oriental features.”

“That seems to be quite the subject here.  Actually, most of us on the Gerland side tend to be dark haired too—I’m not sure what happened to my cousins Patty and Lisa…I guess I’m the darkest of the bunch.”

“‘Dark but lovely,’ as the Song of Songs says,” Julian came back.  “Perhaps you have not had the opportunity to watch your own vineyard in a while.”

Terry looked at Julian intently; for him those dark eyes that held such fascination became windows into the depths of her pain and loneliness.

“‘It is not good that the man should be alone,’” Terry finally responded, labouring to get the words out.  “Not much fun for us either.”  Their conversation turned to other things; Terry found out that her life had a living, walking encyclopaedia in Julian Lewis.  By the end of the meal Priscilla and Darlene realised that their flash of genius was in the process of bearing fruit.

Terry and Darlene met as usual the next morning, but Terry wasn’t in a mood for Bible study just yet.  “There’s something else we need to discuss,” Terry informed her friend.

“What’s that?”

“How did the Reverend Julian Lewis”—

“—he can properly be called Canon, but he usually leaves that for his brother”—

“—how did he find out all of that information about me?  Did the Intelligence Service post all of that stuff they interviewed me about on the street?”

“Well, not exactly,” Darlene answered.  After a pause, she said, “Julian and Norman Cameron are very close.  Norman’s son-in-law, Abel Mason, was Prince Arthur’s adjutant; they were both killed in a border dispute with the Claudians.  His daughter Melissa died in a cholera epidemic right at the start of the war with the Drahlans.  Norman and his wife ended up raising their three children.  Julian was their choirmaster and taught them music at the Cathedral School.  He helped them a lot through it all.  I guess that you must have caught Julian’s eye and he went to Norman and got this information.”

“But why couldn’t he have asked me all this?  Why did he have to sneak around and get it from the Intelligence Service?”  Terry asked, frustrated.

“Maybe that was his clumsy way of wanting to make sure that he should be interested in you.”

“So why is all the risk with me?  I don’t know anything about him.”

“To answer your first question,” Darlene began, “no, he’s never been married before.  Moving to the second one, no, he’s not like your brother, and you can be sure that Norman Cameron or everyone else in this place wouldn’t trust their children to him if he had problems there either.  This is a small place with few secrets—at least for current events.”

“It’s still not right that I be the subject of yet another Serelian intelligence investigation.  That’s not the way to endear someone.”

“Terry,” Darlene replied deliberately, “your heart has been broken over and over again in your lifetime.  His was only broken once but that’s all it took.  He did what he did to try to protect himself from a repeat of the last disaster.”

“Which was?” Terry asked.

“It involved Theresa.”

“Your sister?”

“Yes.”  A pained look came over Darlene’s face.  “Right after he came back from university on the mainland, he fell in love with Theresa.  They met while she was in town.  They dated some and then they became engaged.

“As you know, dating is a dangerous business around here when one of the first families of the realm is involved—even worse with two.  My father didn’t think Julian had enough potential, so he pressured her into breaking the engagement.  Julian was crushed.  He’s never seen anyone since.

“As for Theresa, my father managed to marry him off to one of the Bishop’s favourites within three months.  He would have been Dean if he hadn’t gotten involved in some ‘extracurricular activities,’ as they say in school.  They patched it up, but his big career in the church was finished.  He’s Rector in Denton now.  She’s like you—she only wears long sleeves, but in her case that’s to hide where she slashed her wrists in a suicide attempt.”

Terry was silent for a bit.  Then she said, “What you do think of Julian?”

“You can see the outside for yourself, although the woman’s touch would probably fix some of that…Terry, if it were anybody else, I’d talk a lot about his likes, dislikes, etc.  But I know what you think is important—and now I agree—but I’m new at this, and I don’t want to pass judgment on him or everyone else…but I can’t think of another way to put it.”

“Put what, Darlene?”  Terry asked.  Now her curiosity was aroused.

“I’ve lived here all my life—this place is all I know, pretty much.  I know just about everyone here too, and that includes most all of the clerics in this Church of Serelia of ours.  He’s the only one—Terry, I just can’t put it any other way—that loves God as much as you do, albeit in a different way, because this is a different church from yours.

“When Ronald and Edward were killed, they were committed to the Golden Light out here on Lake Serelia.  My parents and I came into town and were staying at the Inn.  Nobody in this church really likes to conduct the service—it’s really kind of pagan, as we saw with your brother, even though we’ve cleaned it up—but it was imposed by the kings.  The Bishop conducted their funeral service at the Cathedral, but no one—not the Bishop, not the Canon, who had just made Dean, not even Theresa’s husband—would do the actual dockside commitment.  So Julian got stuck with it.  We met at the palace dock just after sunset, he conducted the service, the boat was lit, and I went to pieces just like I did in Verecunda.

“When that was done, we went back to the Inn; my father, mother and I were staying in the same suite your brother used to stay in.  Theresa and her husband disappeared into the Bishop’s Palace—I think she wanted to come but he wouldn’t let her.  We were sitting in our room numb with grief when the door knocked.  It was Julian.  He stayed with us and talked with us to about three in the morning.  Towards the end he gave us a little homily on heaven, on how we would get past the pain of this life and how we would live with God forever. It was the first time I had heard anything on the subject that really made me long for the place.  Then he gathered us together for a really sweet prayer together before left.”

Terry was wiping her eyes at this story, unable to say much of anything.

“So now the decision is yours,” Darlene resumed.  “This is a tricky place for two people to fall in love.  Being what you are, and have been, and being what he is, will make people talk.  Strange things may happen.  You need to make your mind clearly whether you’re interested in him or not.  If you do, you need to know that we’re with you and we’ll help you through these shoals any way we can.”

“Ultimately, only God’s will matters,” Terry answered.  “I can’t say at this point what that is for Julian and myself.  But yes, Darlene, I am interested in Julian, and your help means a lot to me right now.”

“Then may God’s will be done,” Darlene replied.

“Let’s get to some Bible study before we attack this paper mound again,” Terry said, lightening up a bit.

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