Penitence on WIP Wednesday

I had two choices today, since Wednesday this week is both St Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the season of Lent. I’ve gone with penitence, saying sorry, or failing to do so when it was called for.

Do you have that in one of your stories? Share an excerpt. Doesn’t have to be a main character, either, although mine is. In both of my current works-in-progress, my main characters put their foot in things. Here’s my hero Bear realising that he has messed up. Don’t worry, Bear. You’ll do worse before the story is over.

As Bear drove away from the cottage later that day, he was berating himself for being every kind of idiot.

Today, he had failed Rosa not once, but several times. First, he should have realised she had nothing fit to wear to church. He’d see the much-mended and faded gowns she wore every day, and knew she’d had little to no income for years. He’d had not time to repair the matter, since it wasn’t until she paled and stiffened at the church gate that he’d even thought about what she was wearing.

What courage she had. Head up, back straight, she’d marched into church beside him as proud as a duchess in silken splendour, and if her hand trembled on his arm not a soul but him would ever know.

Second, he had not thought about the reaction of the villagers when they heard the banns. Not until the rector started speaking and the whole church went silent. Then came the buzz of whispers, and Lady Hesquith standing. They brushed through it, thanks to the squire’s intervention and the rector’s support, but Bear could have bypassed the risk by simply not taking her to Matins today.

She’d impressed him again after the service, accepting good wishes with a smile and word of thanks, and ignoring those who glowered from the distance.

Third, he’d mentioned her relationship with the squire’s family, and followed up by telling her the full story. Of course she went straight to her father when they arrived at Rose Cottage, and demanded to know whether it was true.

At first, he had been bewildered by the question, then he took one of his erratic dives into the past, and began berating Rosa, calling her Belle.

“All you thought of was yourself, Belle. You knew better than to sneak off with a gentleman, and no true gentleman would have asked it of you. Especially since Pelman was all but betrothed to your cousin. And look where your selfishness led. You disgraced and abandoned. Your uncle sick from the horror of it all, and your cousin so bitter against you that she has had Rosie thrown out of her home. The best thing you can do for any of us is go back to London and leave us alone.”

And after that, he would only say, “Go away,” until Rosa gave up.

His outbreak seemed to confirm the rector’s story, but raised more questions. How did Pelman get into the story? Not the current Pelman, clearly, since he would have been a small child or not even born at the time of the scandal. And which sister gave birth to the baby?

“Ancient history,” Rosa said, her eyes damp but her lips smiling.

Not ancient as long as it had power to affect Rosa. Bear was two weeks away from vowing to love and cherish her all his life, and he was doing a poor job of it so far.

He could fix the wardrobe; had already invited her to take a day trip to Liverpool with him on the first fine day, so they could buy what she needed without the villagers commenting. He couldn’t help but wonder about Lord Hurley’s will. Did the old man truly make no provision for his librarian and the librarian’s daughter? By all accounts, Mr Neatham had been given a pension when he retired, and Rosa had been Lord Hurley’s pet, whatever the propriety of the relationship. It needed further investigation.

As for Rosa and her cousins, he had no idea how to fix it. Rosa’s naive belief that families did feud across generations brought a grim smile. She’d never met his mother.


4 thoughts on “Penitence on WIP Wednesday

  1. My year before last’s NaNoWriMo project is, oddly enough, entitled “The Penitent”. Here’s a bit from the beginning:

    “James stopped on the pavement outside his cousin’s town house, and stared at it. He had spent much time there in the past, and once again regret washed over him. He could have stayed safe and snug here, in the bosom of his family, for all these years. Instead he had allowed a foolish ambition to seduce him, and then separate him from them. He could not blame them, in fact they had treated him leniently because they had not wished his small son to suffer as a result. Six years in the Caribbean was a small penalty to pay.
    He shivered in the cold. He had lost his resistance to an early English spring, and despite the thick overcoat, jacket, and curly-brimmed hat he felt cold to the bone. He could no longer put off the meeting with his cousin. He ran up the steps to the front door, wishing now to get the meeting over and done with, and know his fate.”

  2. Heh, welcome to the goofball club, Bear. Errors from well-meaning ignorance are not as shattering as some.

    I tend to gravitate towards betrayal, pain, and repentance, and atonement, reading and writing. But most are still not ready for prime time, with that magic filler saying handwavium. Nor are they very extractable. where one betrayal of twin sister having a drug party without any penetience but story is waiting for exclusive option. And another having the demon kill rosemary’s baby to save rosemary. In the fanfic arena, I like fixits where there is some mix of repentance and atonement for the ones who really screw up. And how they recover afterwards with help.

    • Indeed. Although Bear takes both well-meaning ignorance and self-castigation to great heights!

      I have a couple of characters who are villains or near villains in existing books that need some life experiences to give them perspective before they can have a happy ending of their own. Ah what it is to be a writer, and to be able to make things turn out!

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