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Chapter 3

A summons by Aunt Mildred


Two days had passed with no sign of Ian, then a messenger arrived with a note saying Ian's aunt wanted to speak with me at two o'clock that afternoon. Well that sent my heart rate up a notch or two, not of fear but one of anticipation, I do like a challenge.

I arrived promptly at five minutes to two, within minutes I was escorted into a small study where Mildred Thompson sat looking a bit like the Grand Duchess of the Holier than Thou City. I was told to sit, which I did while she sat and just stared at me for several minutes.

If she was trying to rattle my cage she failed, I sat there hands folded with a sweet smile on my face waiting for her to speak.

She started with a, "I understand you took a long ride the other day..." Before she could say another word Eve walk in and said, "Yes Auntie I took the handsome padre for a long ride and made all kinds of advances, and for your information he sidestepped all of them leaving me totally frustrated. I want you to give him a good talking to."

She turned on her heel and walked out leaving her aunt speechless.

I started to laugh as I said, "I hope you realize none of that happened, we did go for a ride, but she made no advances, it was all very proper as she showed me around your lovely estate."

Mildred Thompson actually laughed out loud before saying, "So it was Eve who you rode with. I must apologize for her rude interruption just now; she has turned out to be quite a handful as the saying goes. I won't keep you any longer Father Michael but a bit of advice for you if I may, should Eve ask you to go riding again don't be surprised if she does make advances. You are a very handsome man and it won't make any difference to Eve if you are a priest."

I stood to leave and thanked her for the advice before wishing her a lovely afternoon.

So the old girl had thought I was out riding with Ian, which of course I had been, but thanks to Eve coming to my rescue and giving her aunt the impression that it was she and I out riding together yesterday I was off the hook with Mildred. Eve and I had ridden together but that was several days ago.

That young lady knows more about her brother's sexual preference than she has let on. If I get the chance I must thank her for coming to my rescue even if it wasn't necessary. I believe Ian and I have an ally that we were unaware of. Now my concern was where is Ian?

I walked back to where I had left Father Luis's bicycle and started down the drive when Eve whistled from behind a tree, she motioned for me to continue around the curve in the drive and wait. I liked this girl more all the time.

She came through the hedges and kissed me on the cheek, "Thanks for keeping my secret."

"I'm afraid I owe you the thanks, that was quiet a rescue you pulled off in there."

"You're more than welcome but I do have a favor to ask of you."

I said, "And what would that favor be; you need not worry about me ever mentioning Peter."

"It's not that Michael, I want you to promise me you'll never hurt Ian, he's been through hell already and I don't think he could take anymore hurt."

I kissed Eve on the forehead as I looked into her eyes, "I promise you as God is my witness I will never hurt your brother. I can see you love him very much; please know that you are not alone in your love for Ian.

I started to leave and then turned back and asked Eve if she knew where Ian was. She rolled her eyes and said Aunt Mildred sent him on a wild goose chase so she could interrogate you while he was out of the way. He'll tell you all about it tomorrow when he gets back. She waved goodbye and slipped back through the hedges.

Even though there were only four members in the immediate family I believe there was more intrigue and subterfuge taking place here than in an Agatha Christy mystery novel. By falling head over heels in love with Ian I've put myself right smack in the middle of it all. I couldn't help but think, "Good for you Michael, you've not only found direction for your life but more importantly love, a love so wonderful that you feel like you could fly without wings."

I fell asleep that evening with what else but thoughts of Ian.

I was awakened the next morning by the sound of voices, it was Father Luis and Ian, and they were laughing about something. I was so excited at hearing Ian's voice I jumped out of bed and ran to the veranda with my heart pounding with excitement. I stepped outside forgetting I was wearing only my pajama bottoms which had slipped revealingly low on my waist.

Father Luis said, "Good grief Father Michael, go put some clothes on."

Ian burst out laughing at my appearance knowing darn well it was because of my excitement.

I looked down at myself and pulled my pajamas up over my hips. "Sorry I didn't realize we had company." I retreated to my room and dressed appropriately to satisfy Father Luis, I'm sure Ian would prefer that I had remained attired as I was.

I returned with apologies to both men. Ian immediately said that he had heard his auntie had summoned me to the house for an interrogation.

I could detect the concern in his voice; to put his mind at rest as I filled Ian and Father Luis in on my conversation with Mildred Thompson. "I'm afraid your auntie was overly concerned that your charming sister might take advantage of me by making unwanted advances."

"I assured her that Eve had not, although having Eve storm into the study saying that she had made several advances and I had rebuffed each of them leaving her frustrated didn't help. And then she proceeded to tell your Aunt Mildred to give me a good lecture on how to properly respond to ladies' advances.

By the time I was finished with my rather embellished story both Ian and Father Luis were howling with laughter, I think Father Luis actually wet himself. With a look of as much indignation as I could muster I said, "Well, I'm glad you two think this is funny I was so shaken by the incident I fell off Father Luis's bike twice before getting back to the parish."

Their laughter started all over again, it was good to see tears in Ian's eyes knowing they were brought on by the happiness of laughter.

Ian's convertible was sitting in the parish drive, the answer to why came next in the conversation. Ian asked if I would like to ride in to the village for a late breakfast at the Red Rabbit Pub.

I said, "I was not familiar with the Red Rabbit Pub, but the offer sounded good." Ian asked Father Luis if he would like to come along, but he declined saying he needed to work on next Sunday's homily.

Once we were on our way I said, I was surprised Father Luis didn't join us. Ian chuckled, "Even though it's 1953 and automobiles are everywhere, I knew Father Luis wouldn't come with us, he still doesn't trust cars."

"Are you serious, in this modern day and age he still prefers riding his bike around. I could understand it if his parish house wasn't so far from the village, but it's quite a ride from where he lives."

Ian said, "All the better for us I sure didn't want to share you with anyone else."

He surprised me by leaning over and giving me a kiss, which was pretty risky considering we were nearing a populated area. About a mile before we reached the village Ian turned off on a road that led us up into a hilly wooded area. About forty minutes later we pulled into a drive that wound its way up to a small cabin that sat a fair distance from the road.

Ian smiled as he said, "This is my secret place to come and hide when I need some privacy or just want to be alone with my thoughts." He opened the boot on his car and took out a picnic basket full of all kinds of food for us; to which he had obviously given this a lot of thought and preparation.

The cabin was furnished nicely while still maintaining a rustic appearance. I thought, so here I am with another Thompson secret to keep, perhaps I should write them down before I lose track of which secret belongs to whom. On second thought I'd better not write anything down, with my luck I'd discover Father Luis was making a daily search through my belongings.

Ian walked up behind me putting his arms around my waist as he whispered he loved me more than he thought possible. I turned to face him and we kissed lightly at first, then with more passion. We sat on a sofa and Ian gave me a serious look before telling me he was worried sick when his aunt insisted he drive into Garlingreen to deliver a package to his father.

"I knew she was up to something when she made sure I'd be gone for three days and there was no way for me to contact you before leaving. I'm so thankful Eve came to your rescue, although I wonder what possessed her to do that."

I sat there hesitating to say anything, how much could I say without revealing the fact that Eve was aware of his preference for male companionship. When I didn't say anything, Ian asked what was wrong.

"Nothing's wrong Ian, I also wondered the same thing at the time. My feeling is your sister loves you more than you know and would do anything to protect you. I think she was aware your aunt was digging for something when she asked, or rather ordered me to come up to the house yesterday."

Ian went white as a sheet, "Michael do you suppose Eve knows about you and me?"

"Ian, I suppose it's possible, I don't know how but if she had suspicions she obviously wanted to protect us from your aunt's inquiries. Perhaps you and Eve need to have a heart to heart talk. You could thank her for rescuing me and at the same time inquire why she felt it was necessary."

Ian seemed to relax a bit and said he thought that might be a good idea.

I pulled him into my arms and said, "Ian we never said there wouldn't difficulties if we chose to live our lives together." I reached over and started to unbutton Ian's shirt hoping to restore his happy mood. He placed his hand over mine and I stopped and waited to see what he would do next. His color hadn't quite all returned to his face yet. I was getting nervous wondering where his mind was going with all of this.

When Ian focused on me again his eyes were full of doubt and fear, to see this happen was heartbreaking.

"Michael, you won't let Aunt Mildred chase you away will you?"

I put my hands gently on the sides of his face and kissed his eyelids, "Ian I love you so much it hurts, There is absolutely nothing your aunt could say or do to change that. I promise you I will always be at your side; you must never doubt that not even for a moment."

Ian collapsed into my arms sobbing, at that moment I could have killed his Aunt Mildred with my bare hands, what she has done to this loving young man is unforgivable.

I simply held Ian in my arms for the next several minutes. When he sat up he looked at me through tear reddened eyes and said, "Michael, I hope you know how much I love you." My response was, "Not anymore than I love you kiddo and don't you ever forget it."

Ian actually laughed a little as he said, "Well I guess I made a mess out of what I had planned to be a wonderful afternoon together."

"You have done no such thing, now I don't know about you but I'm damn near starving what did you bring to eat, and there jolly well better be some wine in that basket."

His spirits picked up immediately as he started putting napkins on the small table, and setting food out along with a bottle of wine and a couple of glasses. "Oh damn, I forgot to put in a bottle opener." I laughed and said, "You mean you have this secret refuge up here in the woods and you don't have a bottle opener? Shall I have a look around?"

"Yes please do, I may have one here that I've forgotten about, it's been a very long time since I was last here."

I thought yes I bet it has, at least not since your aunt bribed your lover into taking his ill gotten money and heading for parts unknown. His loss and my gain, I guess in a way I should be thankful with the exception of the terrible harm he and Ian's Aunt Mildred have caused.

I was nearly to the last drawer when I found a corkscrew. "Eureka! Here is the necessary implement to free the wine from the bottle moi Cheri."

Laughing Ian, said, "You really are more than just a bit of a character you know."

The rest of the afternoon was perfect, the love was brilliant, the sex was phenomenal and I did something I have rarely done before, I turned bottoms up for Ian and he didn't hesitate to take full advantage of the situation. Once again we collapsed into a happy and exhausted heap of sweaty bodies.

We packed what was left of the food back into the basket and put it back in the car before bathing in a nearby creek and heading back to the parish. This time Ian's hand was more on my crotch than my leg and once again I put my hand on his letting him know it felt good, more than that, it was right where I wanted it.

What we were not aware of was that Mildred Thompson had her chauffer drive her to the parish house where she asked Father Luis is he had seen Ian.

Father Luis said, "Yes he was here early this morning."

"Well you dolt don't just stand there looking like a dimwit, what was he doing here?"

"Ian was kind enough to invite Father Michael and me to breakfast at the Red Rabbit Pub."

"Well, did you go?"

"If I went would I be standing here taking abuse from you?"

"Watch your mouth old man you can be replaced easily enough."

With that she turned on her heel and returned to the car.

As the car was racing down the drive Father Luis thought, "God forgive me, but I hope I live long enough to see someone take that old dragon down a few notches."

It couldn't have been more than ten minutes after Ian's aunt left, before Ian pulled in with Michael. Michael stepped out of the car and waved goodbye as a happy Ian drove back to the house.

Father Luis was sitting on the veranda with whiskey in hand looking a bit sour.

"You look like you had a rough day Father, were you able to finish the homely?"

The priest softened a bit as he said, "No, unfortunately that old dragon from the big house stopped by and upset me."

He handed me a glass of whiskey as I settled in the chair next to him before he asked if I had a nice afternoon.

"Yes I did for the most part, Ian showed me more of this lovely country ... and then it hit me that Father had said the old dragon stopped by. I asked, "Was the old dragon by any chance Mildred Thompson?"

Father Luis tipped his glass against mine as he said, "Bingo."

If I may ask,"Why was she on your case?"

"She wanted to know if Ian had been here, she was her usual arrogant self, looking down her nose as if she noticed a bad odor. I told her Ian had been here and had invited us both to have breakfast down at the pub and then let her know I didn't appreciate her abusive tone. She told me I could easily be replaced."

"My, isn't she just a sweet old thing. Father I doubt she could have you replaced even if she tried."

"Michael I'm afraid she could, she has many influential friends in London."

I patted his arm as I said, "Not as many as I have." And I gave Father Luis a conspiratorial wink.

The priest grunted, "So you think you can one up the old dragon do you?"

"No father, I don't think I can one up the old dragon, I know I can. Now how about I fix us some tea, cheese and crackers for our evening snack?" I believe I left Father Luis quite speechless as he thought about our conversation. I smiled to myself as I got up and headed for the kitchen to fix our tea. That should give him something to think about for a while. I love throwing curves and watching people's reactions.

The next morning I was back out on the veranda with my breakfast tea, still bare foot wearing nothing but my pajama bottoms. Father Luis came out, looked at me and rolled his eyes, but said nothing as he took his usual seat in his rocking chair.

"You know Father you have a lot of beautiful weather here, it seems the sun shines brightly every day."

He replied, "Yes, it's boring as hell if you don't mind me saying so." I turned looking at him and said, "I don't mind at all."

He responded, "I didn't think you would Michael." We both laughed. I believe Father Luis is starting to grow on me, or are we simple getting used to each other, no matter, either way after the priest described Aunt Mildred as the old dragon I have a new respect for him.

Back at the house Mildred Thompson was at the breakfast table with Ian and Eve as brother and sister chatted and laughed. Their auntie was eyeing Ian with intense suspicion which did not go unnoticed by Eve.

"Is your orange juice too sour this morning Aunt Mildred?"

Mildred gave Eve a nasty look as she asked, "What? Eve why do you ask such a thing?"

"It's nothing really, you looked like you had swallowed a bitter pill this morning, are you feeling alright?"

"I'm feeling fine, and the next time you get fresh with me you'll likely get you face slapped."

Ian gave their aunt a hard look as he said, "That, Aunt Mildred would be a serious mistake on your part."

"How dare you speak to me like...?"

Ian stood up abruptly, leaning over the table staring his aunt in the eye as he said, "You so much as lay a finger on my sister and you'll answer to me." He turned and walked out of the room.

"I don't know what's gotten into you two, but I'm going to have a talk with your father."

Eve said, "You do that old woman," and followed her brother out of the room.

Eve caught up with Ian as he was crossing the lawn on his way to the stables; she grabbed his arm and stopped him. "Ian, I am so proud of you for standing up for me. You know you are my hero don't you?"

Ian said, "Speaking of heroes whatever possessed you to face Aunt Mildred down when she was interrogating Michael."

"Ian, you could say it was love for my brother and his friend Michael."

"But Eve, there's more to it than what you're telling me. And what do you know or think you know about Michael and me?"

"Ian, you may think of me as your little sister, but I am an adult and I'm not stupid I can see the way you and Michael look at each other, and if that isn't love than I don't know what is. And I won't let Aunt Mildred do what she did to you and Seth."

"Eve, you knew about Seth, why didn't you ever say anything to me?"

"Ian, we all have our secrets and I hoped that one day you would tell me about you. I hate Seth for what he did to you when he ran away, and I hate what Aunt Mildred did to you even more. Ian you have a right to love whomever you fall in love with regardless of who that person is."

Ian pulled his sister into a hug, "You know Eve you're pretty darn smart for a girl."

Eve hit Ian in the arm with her fist before hugging him even harder.

Ian asked Eve if Michael knew she was aware of our feelings for each other. Eve said yes, that she told him following the ordeal with their aunt, "I'm sorry Ian but I wanted to know that Aunt Mildred hadn't scared Michael away."

"It's okay Eve, so what do think, did Aunt Mildred put the fear of God in Michael?"

Eve took Ian's arm and resumed their walk. "Ian you can rest assured no one will interfere with your relationship with Michael. If I have ever met anyone, and that includes our father, who isn't afraid of Aunt Mildred its Michael. He did let me know how much he loves you, if that helps."

He kissed Eve on her forehead, "You have no idea how good that makes me feel."

"I guess I should go talk with him so he's aware we're all on the same page, why don't you come with me, I think Michael would appreciate you being there."

"If you think it would be okay, I'd like that Ian. It'll be good to know we all have each other's backs."

Of course after Eve's comment Ian was wondering why Eve would need anyone to watch her back, and was Michael already watching her back. And what could his little sister be up to that she feels she needs someone watching her back. He thought; yes Eve you really do need to be with us when we have our talk.

Mildred Thompson watched from her window as her nephew and niece rode off together in the direction of the church parish house. Thinking the only reason they would be drawn to the parish is Michael.

I can't prove it, but I'm sure he's behind the change in Ian and Eve's attitude and even if I can't prove it I still want him gone, and I know just how to do it with some help from Cardinal Whittinger and the ambassador from the British Embassy. She stood smiling as her plan solidified in her mind; a mere suggestion of improper behavior in the church to the Cardinal and a hint of unnatural sexual conduct to the ambassador will take care of Michael.

Later that morning Ian and Eve arrived at the parish finding Michael and Father Luis having their morning tea on the veranda. Michael had scurried in and dressed properly when he saw from the distance that Eve was with Ian on this visit.

The brother and sister dismounted and were greeted by Michael and Father Luis as Father Luis asked what brought them out to the parish. Ian said, "It's a personal matter with Michael." The priest knew that was his cue to leave and said he was going into the Red Rabbit Pub for some coffee.

Moments after Father Luis's departure Michael said, "Okay you two what's up?"

Ian said he and Eve had a talk and he was aware that Eve knew about the love between you and me and has decided to blackmail us for the rest of our lives. Michael spit his tea all the way across the veranda. Eve gave Ian another good punch in the arm and told him to behave himself.

Ian pulled Michael up and kissed him before repeating, I love you, I love you, over and over.

Michael said, "I thought I was supposed to be the smarty pants around here." He added, "I'm glad we're being open with each other it's a good place for us to be.

Looking at Eve, Ian said, "Well not quite Michael, I still need to know why Eve thinks she needs to have her back watched."

I was thinking that's my cue to get out of their way so I said, "I'll get you two some tea and cookies and headed for the kitchen.

Eve grimaced, "I was afraid you picked up on that comment."

Ian said, "Indeed I did so spill it sis."

"It's really nothing Ian, just forget it."

"Either you tell me or I'll get it from Michael."

"From the kitchen I yelled, leave me out of this."

Ian yelled back, "It's too late Michael; you're the one who said no more secrets among us so let's get everything out in the open."

Eve finally said, "Alright, alright, you two stop yelling. Ian's right Michael, there shouldn't be any secrets."

I brought the tea and cookies out and we all sat around the table. Eve started by asking Ian if he remembered meeting a sheep rancher named Peter who lives alone in a cottage out in the hills. Ian said he remember Peter, but hadn't seen him in a long time. And then it hit him. "Oh, so Peter is your secret, you've been sneaking off to meet with him haven't you? So how is Michael mixed up in this?"

"I took Michael out to meet Peter to get his reaction to the how I felt about Peter considering we're from two different worlds socially."

Ian turned to Michael, "So Michael, what was your reaction?"

"To put it in a nut shell, I told Eve I thought it would be a hard choice for her to make, but that it had to be her choice."

Ian asked Eve if she had made a choice.

"I love him Ian, but no I haven't made a choice, I feel like a heel but I'm just not sure if I can give up the privileged life we live. It would mean living in his small cottage with no servants, no car, and no horses, no anything."

Ian said, "I thought you said you loved him."

"I do Ian, but do I love him enough, I have to be sure, and I'm not."

I spoke up asking if they minded if I could say something. They both responded in the affirmative. I said, "Eve, the decision has to be yours alone, it would be wrong of Ian or me to try and influence you either way. I for one will support you in whatever decision you make, but it's different for Ian, you are his sister and he loves you in a different way than a non family member does so I cannot speak for him."

Ian said, "Eve, I have always felt it was my job as your big brother to protect you, but in this matter Michael is right, it has to be your decision. I'll love you until the day I die; all I want is for you is to be happy, you know I'm with you in whatever you chose to do."

Eve let out a sigh, "How I did I get so lucky to have two brothers who love me and neither one is worth donkey poop when it comes to helping with my problem.

Eve changed the topic, "But Michael, we haven't yet told you about Ian coming to my defense when auntie threatened to slap my face."

I bolted upright in my chair. "Your auntie did what?

Ian intervened, "Michael calm down, Eve and I both had a bit of a spat with Aunt Mildred at the breakfast table. It wasn't that big a deal."

Eve said, "Oh but it was Michael, Ian got right in Aunt Mildred's face and told her if she ever laid a hand on me she would have to answer to him. I was so proud of him I could hardly bare it. After Ian left auntie said she was going to talk to father about our behavior."

Ian asked, "Did she really say that?"

"Yes," and I said, "You do that old woman," and I got up and came after you."

Ian laughed hysterically at hearing that and Eve laughed with him, there must have been something I missed because I sure didn't see the humor in any of this.

When they both finally stopped laughing Ian explained that their aunt had forbidden them to ever refer to her as an old woman, she said if we did she would have the Pope excommunicated us.

Ian took a more serious tone as he said, "All three of us will have to be careful, Aunt Mildred won't take any of this lightly there'll be hell to pay for sure."

Apparently nothing unusual happened for the next few days and what made things worse is that their aunt was all smiles and sickeningly sweet to everyone, which meant that when she did strike her vengeance would be deadly.

Ian and Eve made several visits to the parish with their fear growing stronger with each visit. Michael tried to calm them, he said there was nothing to worry about but to keep him appraised of their aunt's actions.

Finally Aunt Mildred gathered the family together and announced that Cardinal Whittinger and the English ambassador would be paying them a visit the following Saturday and told Ian and Eve to make sure Michael was invited, it was quite important that he be present.

"This was obviously a surprise to their father since he asked his sister what this was all about and why hadn't he been informed of this meeting long before now. She just smiled and said you'll all find out on Saturday, she then gave Ian and Eve an evil glare before walking to her study and closing the door behind her.

Ian and Eve headed for Ian's car to warn Michael. Arriving at the parish in a cloud of dust Ian and Eve leaped from the car both talking at the same time, Michael and Father Luis had to calm them down before they could make sense out of what they were saying.

Michael said, one at a time, you first Ian. Before Ian had his mouth open Eve blurted out, "Michael, Aunt Mildred is planning something horrible Saturday and we're sure it's a vicious attack against you."

Ian looked badly shaken as he added; "Cardinal Whittinger would be there as well as the English Ambassador. She's planning something bad Michael. Aunt Mildred specifically said we had to make sure you were there."

Michael put his arms around both of them, "I love you both and you need to calm down and listen to me carefully, nothing bad is going to happen. You have to trust me on this, Ian stop trembling for heaven's sake, now look at me both of you; do I look even a little bit nervous, frightened, or upset?

They both replied "No."

Then you need to calm down because I have something I want both of you to do and you need to pay attention to what I say. "I'm way ahead of Mildred Thompson, there is no danger for me, and there is no danger for either of you, do you understand what I'm saying? Ian said, "Yes, I think so."

"This isn't going to be easy for either of you now that your aunt has you upset, but it's important that you do exactly as I say."

Michael continued by adding, "I want you to return home calm and collected, you must act as if nothing has happened other than you're excited about the visit by the Cardinal and other guests, can you do that for me?"

They both appear to have calmed themselves as they said that they could; I asked Father Luis if he could bring some tea to help calm their nerves. He said he already had some steeping, within minutes he brought each of us a large mug of hot tea.

Holding my mug high I said, "Here's to the most interesting Saturday you'll ever experience." They all drank a sip, Eve spit hers out immediately. Michael said, "Good grief Father Luis, I said make some tea to calm their nerves, how much whiskey did you add?"

Father Luis looked a bit sheepish as he said, "About fifty-fifty."

"For goodness sake I want them calm not plastered."

Ian and Eve couldn't stop laughing at Michael's outburst. It was good to see that they had relaxed enough to laugh.

During all of this Father Luis looked a bit down hearted; he finally asked why as Parish Priest he wasn't invited with the Cardinal coming.

Michael said, "You are invited."

Father Luis said, "But Ian didn't say I was."

Ian responded with, "Actually Michael, Aunt Mildred never mentioned Father Luis."

"Then Father Luis is going as my guest."

Father Luis perked up as he said, "Really?"

"Yes, Father Luis, really, now is everyone happy? If not you will be by the time you finish your tea."

The laughter started all over again.