"Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral." Hebrews 13:4
"It is God's will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; 4 that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, 5not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God" 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5
"The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband." 1 Corinthians 7:4
"Thou shalt not commit adultery" ten commandments
Sibella had held back tears through the entire sermon and the remainder of the church service. But now, sitting on a bench in the graveyard behind the church, she wept openly as Phoebe tried to console her.
"I'm so sorry, my darling," murmured Phoebe, her hand rubbing gentle circles on the blonde's back. "If I'd known this would happen, I..."
"You needn't apologise," Sibella sniffed, her voice thick with tears. "It's my fault, not yours."
"Your fault? The subject of the sermon?"
"No. The fact that it's so poignant."
"But Sibella-" Phoebe began, though she stopped when the blonde spoke over her, rising from the bench.
"I'm going home." Phoebe watched Sibella's face change as she pieced herself back together, all her walls raised up again.
"Alright, let's catch a cab and we'll-" But again Phoebe was cut off by the other woman.
"Not with you, not to Highhurst. I'm going home, where I belong." And with that she walked away, across the churchyard and out towards the street, leaving Phoebe standing by the bench, slightly bewildered.
Sibella was greeted by a maid upon returning to the Holland house. She left strict instructions that she was not to be disturbed and retreated to her bedroom until the staff had gone for the night, dismissed early.
After it was dark and the house was empty, Sibella ventured downstairs. Her dressing gown wrapped tightly around her against the chill in the air, her bare feet were nearly silent on the floors. She crept into the drawing room, her destination the liquor cabinet. Seizing a bottle by its neck and a glass by its rim, she crossed to the armchair by the fireplace, folding her legs beneath her to curl up in the chair.
However, no sooner had she refilled her glass with a second drink than the front doorbell rang. Turning to check the clock on the mantle, she noted that nine thirty at night was rather late for a social call, and Lionel was not due home for another two days. The bell sounded a second time, and she reluctantly got up to find out who was at her door.
Peering through the pane of glass in the top part of the door, she was met with a sight that seemed incredibly out of place. Phoebe stood on the front step, her hair braided but no longer pinned up, no hat adorning her head, and a black coat draped over her shoulders. Sibella's eyes met hers through the glass, green eyes questioning and blue eyes wide and pleading. Unlocking the door, Sibella swung it open and stood to the side so that Phoebe could enter.
"If you're answering the door, I take it the staff is not here?" asked the brunette.
"No, they're not," Sibella replied. "But Phoebe, what are you-"
"I had to see you. I couldn't go on pretending that this morning never happened, I had to tell you that I don't think any of it is true," declared Phoebe.
"Why don't you come into the drawing room?" Sibella spoke after a moment.
Crossing through the foyer, she led Phoebe into the room where the fire was lit. Sibella picked up her glass and Phoebe hovered by the sofa, but neither of them sat. Sibella took a sip of her drink before turning to Phoebe, her expression prompting the brunette to speak.
"I want to start by apologising. I only wanted to show you the church, introduce you to my acquaintances in the congregation. If I had known the subject of the sermon, I would not have attended, whether or not you were with me." Sibella remained silent. "Secondly, I want to tell you that I strongly disagree with everything that was said during the sermon. Though I consider myself a religious woman, I do not believe in a god who is vengeful enough to punish his people for loving someone. I do not believe that a wife yields authority of her body to her husband. It is my opinion that that right belongs to her, especially when her husband is a brute. And if all those who commit adultery are to be stoned, or condemned to hellfire, or dealt whatever fate the church would have, then I must be in their ranks. I too have broken that Commandment, by not only loving someone who is not my husband, but loving someone of the same sex. I know your relationship with Monty pre-dates your relationship with me, but you and I have engaged together in activities that the church would limit to a husband and wife. And I feel no regret, nor shame. I have made love to and with another man's wife, and I would not take it back for all the world." Phoebe finished with her head held high and tears sparkling in her eyes.
"Oh, Sibella," breathed the brunette when the other woman was still silent. "Say you forgive me. Please." Teardrops spilled over her lower lashes to fall down her cheeks.
"Of course I forgive you," the blonde finally spoke, setting her drink on the mantle. "And I admit, it is a relief to hear that you say that you disagree with your pastor. After the sermon, I began to fear..." She trailed off, swallowing hard against her next words.
"I never want you to fear anything from me," said Phoebe, stepping towards the blonde. "I know there are certain aspects of life on which our opinions differ, such as religion, but you never need fear those differences. Darling," she spoke softly, close enough to rest a hand on Sibella's cheek. "I love you. And no sermon or bible verse will ever change that."
"And I love you," whispered Sibella. "With all my heart."
Phoebe leaned forward, raising herself onto her tiptoes, and pressed her lips to Sibella's. The blonde felt her defences melt as Phoebe kissed her. Bringing the brunette closer, Sibella returned the kiss.
When they finally pulled their mouths away from each other, they were both breathless and flushed. Remaining close, Phoebe wrapped her arms around Sibella's waist as the blonde tucked a stray curl of dark hair behind an ear.
"No one's coming back to the house until the morning, are they?" asked the shorter woman.
"No, and the servants don't come in till nine o'clock."
"Come to bed with me," breathed Phoebe. "Kiss me, undress me, make love to me."
"Here?" asked the blonde, surprised.
"Yes. Here and now." Sibella answered her with a kiss and led her by the hand upstairs to the master bedroom, the bedroom she shared with Lionel.
For weeks, Sibella clung to the image of Phoebe in her bed, their bodies pressed together. She suffered through conversation and obligatory realtions with her husband, but when she closed her eyes tightly against the sight and sensation of Lionel on top of her, it was Phoebe that she pictured with her. Darling Phoebe, her love and her lover, regardless of anything the church had to say. Come sermons or hellfire, she knew that they would always love each other.