Chapter Sixty-Nine: A Need

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“…the love of the Father. In that line, grace is sufficient. It by definition must cover all manner of….”

My mind was elsewhere, bathed in joy of an irreverent kind. My heart sang. It had worked!

I had taken the risk to keep from becoming a prisoner to my own body and it had worked.

Baby Anne was at home with the maid and the cook. It felt good to be out and about, even if it was only to church.

A cough from Mrs. Fenuiel beside me brought the elaborately carved pulpit back into focus. The Reverend Drummond smiled benevolently upon his congregation from his lofty perch. He paused as he turned another page of his sermon notes.

When only his head is visible above his robes, he makes quite the pleasant visage.

I shifted in my seat, testing. I could not feel it inside, even when sitting for long periods of time on a hard wooden pew.

Each day that passed the pessary was less noticeable until I lost track of its presence entirely.

Well, maybe not entirely.

I had inserted a finger to feel its shape while lying on the bed in my shift that night and every night thereafter. It was a solid metal pillow with a central hole. I was not certain what exactly it was constructed of, as I was too afraid to pull it out. There was no telling if I would be able to get it back in properly and having to explain to the good doctor how it had “fallen” out would be too mortifying.

Furthermore, I had no intention of keeping my appointment to follow up with the doctor on Tuesday next. Looking him in the face after he had examined and felt of me down there was too much. The device was working. That should be sufficient.

“Let us pray.” The Reverend’s eyes fixed on mine for a moment. Did I look distracted? Surely he was used to distraction. I bowed my head dutifully.

What would it be like to be naked, body entwined with his in a passionate embrace?

My cheeks reddened. Why did that pop into my head? Here? In God’s house? Was what the doctor warned true? Was I becoming a whore? And then a new reality dawned on me. With a pessary occupying space, I could not make love to any man even if I wanted to.

I must not allow myself to want it.

I focused on the rise and fall of his voice, eloquent words masking their own intent.

Reality. I could never be a vicar’s wife. That was not me. I lacked the faith and fortitude. I lacked the innocence and capacity for love of humankind. I could not be his lover.

But protection. I longed to feel loved, safe, protected. God alone could not provide me with these very carnal, human things. Bernini had been wrong. I was fairly sure that even Saint Teresa in her ecstasy probably still felt unfulfilled. I felt the rocking of a ship in the dark. My face on his chest. His heartbeat. I could remember the intense pleasure of the very moment Anne had been wrought, but his features, the details, were lost to me already. Sadness stuck in my throat.

A hand touched the cold, hard oval pinned to my bodice.

There you are.

“Amen.”

No. I did not want to leave this darkness…

Swells of organ music.

I must remain faithful to his memory.

Dutifully, I filed out of the pew, into the aisle, and out the door with Mrs. Finueil on my arm to exchange brief pleasantries with the Reverend Drummond. As we set foot on the steps the sun caught in my nostril and I sneezed.

I smiled.

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