The Vicar of St. Dunstan's Ep. 22byNigel Debonnaire©
A request for a specific seduction got me thinking it was time to include storylines that focus more on the gay characters around St. Dunstan's. I've never wanted the Vicar to be the center of every sexual relationship or escapade in the series, so this will explore how the other half is living, so to speak.
It was one of my favorite holidays again: Twelfth Night. It's not as big as it is in Mediterranean countries, but I enjoy celebrating it here and my friends are more than open to that. We were finishing a huge feast the Quilting Ladies whipped up, seated around the huge, formal dining table in the Vicarage. The Quilting Ladies were there: Mary, Mavis, Barbara, Agnes, as well as Sister Mary Francis Xavier, who Barbara (Mother Mary Rufus) brought along, George and Rachel Staton, Niall Jones, the organist/choirmaster, Miriam Hali of St. Will's and her son Kieran, who had just moved into St. Dunstan's. The deconstructed Christmas puddings basked in the soft glow of many candles, wine and water glasses competed for room with coffee cups. The company was in fine spirits as I rose with a small glass of dessert wine to make a toast.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you a toast with a dual dedication. First, to Kieran Hali, who takes up his ministry with us today, may God bless him during his stay with us, fill his mind with wisdom and fill his heart with his Love."
"Hear, hear. Amen." Keiran raised his tall bulk from his chair, waved shyly, and beamed for a moment before taking a small bow. His mother was glowing beside him, wearing a multi-colored traditional African garment and hat, although I noticed she had imbibed several glasses of the red wine that evening.
"And secondly, to our own dear Agnes, who recently became a Fellow of the Royal College of Organists. We are blessed you are here, well done, and it's about time."
"Hear, hear." Agnes stood, smiling broadly. She had taken her test later than most of her classmates, being the last to be awarded that distinction, but she had finally done it. I wondered whether I had distracted her from her purpose with our relationship, or whether we'd given her too much to do around the parish. We were blessed to have two such Fellows at St. Dunstan's; Niall passed his test nine months earlier. Agnes curtsied twice and sat down, looking from side to side, and settling to chat animatedly with Rachel Staton.
The other faces around the table were interesting. Mary was basking in reflected glory, Mavis was giving me a knowing look that promised a request for a date, George Staton was slightly tipsy and bemused, as usual, his Rachel was looking at Agnes with unfettered admiration, Niall was obviously forcing a smile.
We drank and went to chatting with each other around the table. Bea and Betsy Burkitt, Mavis' twin granddaughters who served as kitchen help that night, cleared the table, congratulated Agnes, and made certain that Kieran noticed them. Sister Mary Francis Xavier was very interested in Kieran as well. She caught my eye and I asked her: How's it going, Squirt?
Nice, very nice. She glanced at Kieran for a moment. Is he going to fit in here? I hope so. You think he should learn Sign?
The young nun's eager eyes lit up immediately. Oh yes, sign him up for my class tomorrow. Please.
I laughed and she laughed with me.
George Staton came up to me as things were winding down. "Hey, Alfred, I've made a New Year's resolution and I'd like you to help me with it."
"Sure, George. Name it."
"I need to take up running again. Not as much as you do, not every chance. Two times a week, maybe three eventually?"
"Done, George. Just let me know which days, and you're on."
"Grand, Alfred. Thanks."
The evening sailed to its completion and everyone went home happy. Things were not to stay that way.
The next day, Tuesday, I awakened with a slight headache and the first phone call of the day was from the Bishop, which made it worse. "Good morning, Bishop Delacroix, what can I do for you today?"
"Fine, Father Alfred, just fine. How were your holidays?"
"They went well, in spite of Christmas being on the worst day of the week this year. And yours?"
"Just splendid, just splendid. Little Freddie is such a precocious lad; we spent most of the day in the family room just watching the lad play with his new toys. There's nothing like having small children in the house at Christmas time, remember that Father."
Great, I thought to myself, a gay Bishop is hinting I should get settle down and start a family. What's next?
"I'm glad your Yuletide was so enjoyable," I replied. "How can I help you today?"
"I've been asked to do a private baptism at St. Dunstan's the first Sunday of February, and was wondering if it would fit the Parish calendar."
I got out the book, turned to the Sunday and my head twinged; I knew what was coming. "May I ask the name of the family and the infant?" "Of course. It is the Clyde-Walker family: the infant is Vanessa Clarissa Frederika Clyde-Walker."
Of course. The baby that I played unwitting sperm donor for. "What an alliterative name," I murmured.
"Yes, her first name is after her paternal grandmother, and her second middle name is from a distant relative on her mother's side, who is a widow with no children." Yeah, right. Like his daughter Violette the Hatchet Face, Clarissa was finding a way to tweak me through naming a child.
"The date is clear on the calendar, Bishop Delacroix. Is there a time you wish to choose?"
"Fine. I'm sure my people will take good care of you. Unfortunately, I will be absent that day."
"Oh, how come? Clarissa is most anxious you be in attendance."
"My father is not well, confined to a wheelchair, and I promised him last summer that I would visit him as soon as possible after Christmas season was over. Several small things will keep me here for the next couple of weeks, but I must keep my promise to see him as soon as I can. You know how it is, I never know when the next time I see him will be the last."
"Of course, Alfred, I understand, completely, family comes first. Will you be gone long?"
"Only two weeks. I'll do some research for my dissertation in Chicago while I'm over there. I'll be back by Ash Wednesday."
"Very well. God speed, Father Alfred."
"Thank you, Bishop Delacroix." He rang off and I went to my computer to price tickets to America. Dad wasn't that bad off, but I was thinking about going anyway, and Clarissa had just given me a good reason to push things forward. Wicked ideas filtered through my head: if she came asking for another 'Day of Agony', I would need no compulsion or encouragement to make her dream come true.
The week swam by, and Friday afternoon I was in the Sacristry attending to some odd errands. A distant moaning was filtering through the door from the Nave, so I went to find out who was there. No one was in the pews and it seemed to be coming from the loft. Ascending the stairs, I was greeted with an odd sight: the organ and the lights were on and but Niall was slumped over the desk, sobbing heavily over the keys. "Niall?" I asked.
He looked up with heavy, red eyes. His face was drawn and lined with lack of sleep under his sandy hair and his complexion was an awful color. "Yes, Vicar. What can I do for you?" he asked in a flat voice.
"If you'd like, please come over to the Vicarage, and let me see what I can do to help you. You've been out of sorts for months, and that's not right. You need help." He nodded briefly and shut down the organ. I accompanied him through the Nave, Sanctuary and Sacristry, down the corridor and into my Vicarage study.
He settled in a chair and accepted a glass of Scotch, sipping it slowly and taking a deep breath. I settled myself in a chair near him, away from my desk and waited for him to talk.
"It's Francis, Francis. My life hasn't been the same since he left." Francis Watson was Niall's partner, who had taken a job in America five months earlier. They had married in a civil service at the town hall shortly after Elton John, and seemed very happy together.
"How is he doing? Where is he in America?"
A sob. "He's in a place called Topeka, Kansas, running a regional communications agency. A CEO at last. They love him there." The last sentence trailed up in pitch, ending with a high squeak.
"I know Topeka well. A nice place to live, but you wouldn't want to visit there." A teary, glum look was the response I got. "Kidding, Niall, just kidding. Don't you ring him up fairly regularly?"
"Three times a week. It's not enough, Vicar, it's not enough. My life is so empty without him, my bed is so cold. I've had to sleep on the couch for weeks, I just can't stand that empty room. I knew this was going to happen, I told him so before he left, and we quarreled so much in those last weeks that I couldn't bear to see him off at Heathrow. It was an offer he couldn't refuse."
"So why are you here? Why didn't you follow him?"
An open mouthed look of astonishment was my answer. "I have so much here: the Choir School, the different choirs of the parish, my private studio, my other friends, my family, my wonderful Vicar to work for." I shook my head, but Niall touched my arm, "No, Father Alfred, you're the best Vicar I've ever worked for and the most supportive. I'd run through a brick wall for you, or take a suicide mission in No Man's Land."
"I'm flattered, Niall, but what good is all of this when your soulmate is on the other side of the ocean?"
He pondered this for several moments. "It's not good. It's awful. Dust and ashes, worthless."
I let him digest this for a long moment then continued: "Then why don't you go to him?"
"We've been apart too long. America has probably changed him, made him someone I wouldn't recognize. He may have found someone else he isn't telling me about."
Another pause. "Is this the Francis you know?"
"Then go find out. Take a leave of absence and go to America. I'll give you directions to Topeka, the rest is up to you. Take a month, take two months. Agnes is ready to fill in for you. Look around and see how you like it. Your skills would be as welcome there as well as they are here."
The cold wind sang though the windows with a gentle buzz. It was overcast again, miserable weather. Niall was wrestling with himself. "I don't want to go," he said quietly.
"I'm not saying go for good. See where your relationship is; test the waters there. Be sure of where you stand. You are still Organist/Choirmaster here indefinitely. Going will give you some peace, give you a way forward. Sitting here and stewing in your own juices will do none of us any good."
"I guess you're right, Father Alfred," he said finally. "I should go and see him. My heart tells me I should go to him."
"Follow your heart."
A wink and a nod. "Thanks, Father."
"Anytime. Keep me posted."
"I will. Later." He rose and shook my hand.
It was time for Agnes to fix Tea in the kitchen, so I went to find her. Mary was taking her place, and accepted my embrace in greeting. "Hello, Reverend Father," she purred, "what can I cook up for you?"
"We'll talk about that, but where's Agnes? I thought it was her night."
She shrugged. "She called me this afternoon and said she was delayed at University, asked me to cover for her tonight."
"On a Friday?"
"I'm just reporting what I was told, don't know why," she said with a slight edge in her voice. There was a suspicion, but no evidence, and Mary never went off half cocked.
I sat on a chair. "I need to talk to her. Niall is going to take a leave of absence." "Anything wrong?"
"Relationship problems. He needs to sort things out with his Francis in America. We're going to need Agnes to step up to the plate for us with the Choir. She might have to get someone to help her."
"Oh, I thought Niall hasn't been himself lately. It makes sense, him getting away should do him a world of good. Agnes should be ready to take the reins, and Freddie Burkitt's coming along splendidly; he's probably ready to pitch in."
"Sounds good to me. I'd rather not have to advertise, let's see what Agnes has to say."
Agnes made it in just after supper, and was thrilled at the prospect of taking over for Niall. She called him immediately to find a time to work out the immediate future of the music program, and talked about having Freddie Burkitt, Mavis' grandson, helping out with accompaniments. After ringing off, she excused herself to take a long bubble bath since she'd had a long day, saying she wasn't hungry. Mary and I shared our meal in silence, but I wasn't in the mood for love, much to Mary's disappointment.
Niall left for my home state the next Wednesday, after preparing Agnes to run the St. Dunstan's Music Ministry. Thinking Agnes' work load was getting too heavy, I got the Burkitt twins to do the housework and cooking regularly, despite the amount of flirtation that would be forthcoming. Mavis was delighted that her Betsy and Bea were going to help out around the house and their brother Freddie was going to help with the music program. She babbled on about them as I bound her massive tits in the Quilting Room the next day until I put a gag in her mouth and flogged her. She loved it.
Friday morning found an unexpected visitor in the mid-morning: Rachel Staton, George's wife. Rachel was in her mid-50's, medium height with long, brunette hair starting to turn grey. Her face was oval with a small nose and a delicate chin. I'd heard that an exercise program helped her lose weight, and as she took off her coat, a light blue dress showed me it was a smashing success. She wore medium heels and a touch of makeup.
I beckoned her to sit and I took a chair across from her. "What can I do for you today, Rachel?"
Her face was tense. She took an offered glass of water and sipped it nervously. "I've been a bad girl. You know George better than more people, and I trust you. You can tell me what to do."
"All right, Rachel. Go on."
"I've been cheating on George."
A cloud passed over the sun outside, and the room darkened melodramatically. A moment later, it brightened again, and I turned on another lamp to keep the atmosphere warm in case of a repeat. "I see. How long has this been going on?" "Six months. Oh, at first I thought there was nothing wrong with it, just a friendship that was a little deeper than most, something that gave me what I was missing in my relationship with George. She seduced me, slowly, gently, pulled me into her sunshine. I couldn't get enough, it was sweeter than honey. Bright, funny, beautiful, alive, she is. Our cover was perfect, and I got used to regular 'Afternoon Delight'. Then it all went wrong."
I touched her shoulder, giving it a passing squeeze and she took another sip of water. "I started thinking wild thoughts. I thought about how much fun it being married to her would be, sharing an apartment near the University. My life is so stale, so deeply rutted, I've just wanted to scream my head off day after day with frustration. George has gotten so distant, and my daughters are so far away from me."
"Where are they now?"
"Jill's in New Zealand working for Peter Jackson as a graphic designer, Molly is living in a bungalow in the south of France selling paintings, and Sarah's doing her doctorate in Archeology at the University of Toronto. I talk to them an average of once a month, and they never come home for the holidays."
"And your lover is younger than you are?"
"Oh, yes by much. She's younger than my girls, that what's so silly, I guess. So last week I said something stupid: I asked her if she would give up everything and live with me. Everything went wrong after that." Rachel pulled an handkerchief out of her small purse and wept hard tears for several minutes. There was nothing I could do but sit and let the storm spend itself. It finally subsided: she took a long drink of water and composed herself. "My darling went cold immediately, said I misunderstood her and I had a problem. She just wanted to have fun, and wasn't interested in shacking up with an old woman like me. She had her career to think about, and she wants babies someday." Another squall hit, and another pause until it passed. "How could she lead me on like this? How could she kiss me and lick me and make me feel so good all over, let me make her shake my rafters, and then say there was someone else more important that I am? She seemed to think because it was just us girls it didn't count."
"I don't know, Rachel. Have you ever had an affair with a woman before?"
"No. Never really came close, even when I was growing up. Hadn't really fantasized about it, either. She complimented me on how much weight I was losing and how nice I looked, and one day after we played tennis, she kissed me, impulsively, over the net. It was a surprise; I wanted more. Next time, we showered together, side by side, then we were soaping each other, and finally, we kissed again, naked in the shower, snogging forever in the hot water and slick against one another. Sneaking around behind our men was fun, and it even got me a little more interested in George. Oh, the look on his face the first time I laid a hand on him in the dark after a long dry spell. It was hilarious.
"But I spoiled it. The fun's all gone, and she doesn't want to have anything to do with me. I'm such an idiot, so dirty, so awful."
"No, you're not, Rachel. You're a beautiful person. You are loved by those who matter."
"Thanks for the nice words, but I can't feel it."
"I know. You have to let these clouds of gloom pass by a bit before you can work out what to do next."
"Should I leave George?"
I sighed and rubbed my nose. "Do you still love him?"
She stared ahead blankly for several moments. The hum of a vacuum cleaner came from upstairs, one of the girls was at work. The back door opened and shut, and clattering came from the kitchen. At last, in a small still voice, she whispered, "Yes. If he'd come back to me, be the lovely lad I once knew, talk to me again, call me to his side, I'd come running. I only cheated on him because I was so lonely and bored. He's cheated on me, I know, even though I don't know who. I guess that's why I carried on so long, I felt I was justified in getting back at him."
I took a deep breath. "I can't betray a confidence, can't tell you everything George and I have talked about or what I've seen him do when you're not around, but I know that he genuinely loves you. He's struggled with himself and with growing older, and I'm not going to say he's a saint, none of us are, but I know that he's really looking for you, somewhere in the midst of the chaos he sees around him. He dwells on his disappointments more than he should, he drinks more than he should, he fantasizes more than he should, he does things he shouldn't. He needs you. The girl he's looking for is you."
It took her a while to digest this. I asked her: "What can I do for you?"
Rachel looked at me solemnly. "Pray for me."
"Thanks, Alfred. Thanks for listening."
"You're welcome." She got up and gave me a hug before I escorted her out.
I met Molly Staton the first few months I was in England, just before she left for France. We'd corresponded occasionally, I had purchased a couple of paintings through her gallery, and I had her phone number. Since George had also mentioned his desire to be in closer contact with his girls, I called her and suggested it might be a good idea to have a family reunion in the near future. Molly was concerned that her parents were missing their children and admitted she hadn't thought much about it, but agreed to contact her sisters and see what she could do.
On Saturday morning, I had a chat with Kieran to see how he was doing. He reported that the parish was making him feel at home, and he was happy with visiting the shut ins. Sister Mary Francis Xavier was helping him learn Sign, and she was also making him a bit nervous. Niall called Agnes Saturday afternoon to report that his visit to America was going well, and he was able to spend some quality time with Francis. Freddy Burkitt acquitted himself well at the organ during the weekend liturgies, supporting Agnes in her role as the new Choirmaster.