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.

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