Rowan’s way: 1 Opening skirmish

“Rowan? What sort of name is that for a girl?”

“It’s my name,” I replied, somewhat irritated by his tone of voice. He wasn’t to know I’d had that reaction over and over again from the moment I went to school. My tutor at College had been taken aback when “Rowan” turned out to be a red-headed woman with attitude and legs rather too long for the skirt I was wearing (as a male friend kindly put it), and that was pretty much standard all the way through to theological college and into my first curacy. That being so, I should not have been as short as I was with Ryan, but he was, even at the start, irritating as well as charming. He was one of those men who knew he was handsome and clever – and he knew I knew and thought I should react accordingly. Since I never liked doing what I was expected to do, I reacted according to my own lights. That was my introduction to our local lord of the manor – or at least to his heir.

My rector, Susan, was simply the best priest a girl could have wanted to serve her ticket under. She was a no-nonsense woman from Manchester who saw the Deanery as her challenge. Rural Suffolk was hardly home territory, and wealthy Tory landowners not her natural constituency, but she proved as adept with them as she did with all the locals. With seven parish churches to curate, she needed a curate and got me. Unlike Susan, I had grown up in the countryside and loved the rural life. She noticed, and as time passed, tended to let me deal with the outlying rural parishes.

Though it had happened when I was a girl, out here in the countryside, twenty years ago was but a moment, and there was some hesitation about the presence of a “lady Vicar”. My favourite comment was from Mrs. Bertram, who must have been ninety if she was a day, and leaving Communion one day commented: “Don’t worry love, it’d be easier for them to accept if you looked like the back of a bus. Pretty Vicars are harder on them.” She made me laugh, and I reflected that if one of the oldest inhabitants had no problem, I should lighten up with those who had. Time showed that was the sensible thing to do. Ryan later maintained that what was really wrong with what he called “Vicars in knickers” was that we made the “Tarts and Vicars” fancy dress ball problematic by being both.

Ah, yes, Ryan again. He keeps popping up. His family owned the old Rectory which the church had flogged off in the 1980s, leaving the then Vicar with a little suburban box, which made do for a busy curate. Said box was next to the Old Rectory, and it had been the habit of Lord Surtees to invite the old Vicar to lunch once a month. I inherited the invitation, and it was with some consternation that the butler received me.

“Hi there,” I said cheerily, noting the puzzlement on his face, “I’m Rowan, the Reverend Topham, the new curate.” I thought that his head would explode, as his eyes seemed bent on popping out, but I suppose the jaw dropping let out enough air to prevent that. He recovered quickly, and inviting me in, offered to take my shawl before showing me to the drawing room.

“The reverend Topham, my Lord.” If Lord Surtees was surprised, he did not show it.

“Delighted to meet you, and so glad you could come. Though I don’t often get to church, it matters in this community, and I like to keep in touch. Have you met my son, Ryan?”

He steered me in the direction of a very tall, bronzed figure who looked as though he was channeling Michaelangelo’s David – and knew it. I am on the tall side for a woman, five-nine, in my heels five-eleven, but he towered above me, he must have been at least six foot four.

“My, what have they done with Vicars? They didn’t look like you at Dover Court.” Now why was I not surprised to learn he’d been to one of the most exclusive, and expensive public schools in the country, famous for producing goodness knows how many Conservative Prime Ministers. Craning my neck upwards, I smiled:

“Thank you, but they do say that altitude can blur the vision.”

He laughed: “Touché, nice return of serve. Now, what can I get the prettiest Vicar I know to drink?”

“A g&t would go down nicely. How many Vicars do you know, by the way?”

Fixing me a stiff gin and tonic, he smiled broadly: “If I’d known they made them your model, I’d have made sure I knew a lot more. But you have me at a disadvantage. You know my first name, what’s yours?”

“Rowan”, I said.

“Rowan, what sort of name is that for a girl?”

And that, as they say, was how it started.

[Part 2 coming soon]

About JessicaHoff
Church of England. Survivor. Grateful. Rabid feminist lefty, according to some, wishy-washy liberal according to me.

22 Responses to Rowan’s way: 1 Opening skirmish

  1. Neo says:

    An excellent start, dearest friend 🙂 xx

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Scoop says:

    Hard to comment when we have only seen the camel’s nose under the tent so to speak. However, you do have a good grasp on writing dialogue and development of characters. Well written.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. 39 Pontiac Dream says:

    Hi Jess.

    I’m going to read your short when all of them are here. Though I may have to switch page to page, bookmarking online doesn’t have the same appeal as doing it with real books so I hope you’ll forgive me but I’ll read them when they’re all here.

    How many chapters are there going to be?

    Liked by 3 people

  4. the unit says:

    This going to get interesting. More so, I think.
    I can’t imagine my asking this fellow. “Jesse? What sort of name is that for a bandit?”

    🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    • JessicaHoff says:

      That made me giggle as my other half sometimes calls me Jessy! I doubt anyone asked the question twice 😊

      Liked by 3 people

      • the unit says:

        So I won’t ask about Chapter 2. However, think I read NEO was featuring you this week, and he would see us on Friday. Not sure though?
        Anyway, will be following.

        Liked by 1 person

        • the unit says:

          Gosh, since you “liked” maybe it means my short term memory is intact. Of course, you can change your mind and post a blog earlier than Friday . Like Ezekiel Jonathan “Zeke” Emanuel said about his wish to die at 75. He reserves the right to change his mind then, when/after/beyond/if he gets there, even somewhere close. 🙂

          Liked by 2 people

        • JessicaHoff says:

          Oh I am a good girl, I leave these things to the man in charge 😊

          Liked by 2 people

        • the unit says:

          Yes, looking forward to your continued story Jessy. 🙂
          But meant NEO, we’d welcome a blog post as circumstances warrant this week. Like, i.e. who is Sidney really and the Trump team, and what your take here as it goes along?
          Think all our guesses are as good as anyone’s?
          Mine…we’re woked…but forked, so to speak, in nice words.

          Liked by 3 people

        • JessicaHoff says:

          Let’s hope Neo responds – all seems clear as muddy water politically xx

          Liked by 2 people

  5. audremyers says:

    Sorry, Jess – yesterday was a bizarre one (for me, anyway!). Looking forward to seeing where this story goes!

    Like

  6. the unit says:

    Glad it’s not the Lord’s Day, except ain’t that every day that I wake up? Sorry if a lib reads, my fact check say “you’re right.” 🙂
    My short story is right here, stop, short, jerk back, spin around, don’t toss out the fluff. 🙂
    Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray to God my soul to take. If I should live for other days I pray the Lord to guide my ways.
    To rip the soles and cleets from the jack-booted-thugs sent by the new world eliete
    Maybe take even a scalp
    Wouldn’t waste bit of time on a Plugs, but maybe better carved from a D. Brazile Nut.
    Perhaps I’d recommend more
    But I’m not Robert Redford,
    And I prefer ribeyes to livers
    If I haven’t included all I’m so thankful for,
    it’s only 11:47 am
    For this amen….

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: Advent Book Club | All Along the Watchtower

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