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Dancing Prophet

By Glynn Young

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Chapter 1: The Agnostic

On a lightly rainy Friday in mid-September, Trevor Barry watched his two children, feeling the tube car rocking gently back and forth as they traveled toward central London. This was the journey they made together most weekdays from their home in Watford. Both Jane, 16, and Andrew, 12, attended the International Christian School in Notting Hill. He could see Jane was absorbed in The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy, an assignment for her literature class. Andrew, judging by the scribbles he was making in a notebook, was working on maths.

Five mornings a week, their schedule called for Trevor’s wife Liz to drive him and the children to Watford Junction to catch the overground train. The three of them would change to the tube at Queen’s Park and then ride three or four stations to Paddington. There they’d change to a District or Circle Line train. Jane and Andrew would give him a quick kiss as they exited at Notting Hill Gate. Usually he’d continue on until Temple Station, a short two-block walk from his law chambers.
Today was different. Today he would exit at St. James’s Park, for the three-block walk to Buckingham Palace, something he was now doing regularly once or twice a week.
Trevor loved his children dearly, even if he had trouble at times showing affection. He wanted to show affection; the problem had always been with the “how.” Jane, a natural blond, had turned into what he considered a beauty. She had her mother’s eyes and her father’s narrow face and high cheekbones. She was a serious girl and a serious student, and he had worried about her seriousness until just the last few months. Then she had met a boy she truly seemed to like and suddenly blossomed.
Andrew looked like a smaller, younger version of his father, the same thoughtful eyes and narrow face, the same light brown hair, and likely the same six-foot height as he grew older. He had his mother’s outgoing personality – gregarious, friendly, always ready with a joke. He also had a surprising tenderness, which Trevor recognized in himself from a long time ago, if not now. Andrew wasn’t quite yet interested in girls but judging by the number of girls who called on the phone asking for help with homework, they were certainly interested in him.
When he thought back to when he was Andrew’s age, all he could see was a dark, impenetrable wall. The wall frightened him; he didn’t like to think about what was behind it. The wall also caused him to struggle with a natural tendency to be over-protective of his son.
Trevor knew he himself had built that wall. It kept the demons at bay. Most of the time.
He looked out of the window into the darkness of the underground. Almost ten months earlier, Trevor’s life had changed with a single phone call from Josh Gittings, once the prime minister’s political assistant but better known as the PM’s hatchet man. Now chief of staff to King Michael, he’d contacted Trevor, asking him to meet with the king. Initially, it wasn’t about legal advice. Instead, somehow Gittings had ferreted out Trevor’s hobby and avocation – monarchial law and history. The new king, coming to the throne after the assassination of the royal family and what was called The Violence, was a young Anglican priest, raised in Scotland in a middle- to upper-middle-class family, and married to an American wife. The king, Gittings had said, needed help understanding the history, role, and legal considerations for being the monarch.
Trevor had been as stunned as his wife and his colleagues in chambers. He was known for his expertise in parliamentary law, with a secondary specialty in corporate law. He was frequently called upon by large corporations, government ministries, political parties, and others involved in the nation’s lawmaking procedures. But never before had he been called upon to advise a king, and on a subject his colleagues often snickered at, thinking he wasn’t aware of their jokes. Who cared about a subject as antiquated as the monarchy? He also knew that, behind his back, they called him “the Monarchist.” He didn’t mind.
As it turned out, someone did care, and care very much, about what Trevor knew: the new monarch, Michael Kent-Hughes. Word had quickly circulated in chambers; the snickers were soon silenced. Instead, his colleagues watched almost in awe as, within a few short months, Trevor’s own practice grew and spilled over to their practices as well. No one joked about the Monarchist any more. Now they called him the “Rain Man,” just not to his face.
Trevor had been utterly unprepared for Michael Kent-Hughes. Young, handsome, outgoing, and a priest, the man seemed full of life and possibility. He learned quickly, and Trevor had discovered how much he listened to and relied upon Gittings, his communications man Jay Lanham, and Queen Sarah.
And now upon Trevor Barry.
A series of reputation and political attacks before the coronation had had Trevor called to the palace on a regular basis. Most of their conversations focused on Michael’s statutory authority with both the Church of England and Government. Trevor had also become a member of the Coronation Committee, advising the members of history, protocol, and procedure. He had brought in legal experts when needed; he himself had prepped the king for a meeting with Muslim protestors, who had made a number of demands upon Michael and Government.
He had watched the televised meeting with his colleagues in chambers. When it was over, He had stood and smiled. “The king did very well,” he said. People in the room stared at Trevor almost with reverence. They knew who had advised the king; the chambers manager had told them about the training session.
Trevor and Liz had attended the coronation in May. Their status with the king and queen was signified by where they sat with Andrew – right behind Josh Gittings and his fiancée in the third row. Liz had been nearly beside herself – worrying endlessly about a dress and hat for the coronation and a dress for the ball at Buckingham Palace. Trevor’s position with the king had been made plainly obvious by the fact the Barry family had been given a large bedroom at the palace for their use during the day of the coronation festivities.
Jane had been an official guest of Jason Kent-Hughes, Michael and Sarah’s adopted son who also attended International Christian School. He was a year older than Jane, but they shared several classes. Trevor didn’t fully know how Jason and his younger brother Jim had come to be adopted by Michael and Sarah, but both boys were Americans and from the San Francisco area. Trevor knew there had been a period of homelessness for Jason, but he really knew little beyond that.
Trevor had met Liz, a born-and-raised-in-London girl, at the University of London. He had just begun law studies; she was an undergraduate in economics. She had gone to the law library for a research project, and they’d literally run into each other when she rounded a book stack just as he walked up carrying an armful of case studies. Books and papers had gone flying. They had looked at one another with anger and surprise, and then both had burst out laughing, earning them more than one nasty look from students trying to study nearby.
They had begun to date and found themselves falling in love. As they dated, Liz introduced him to Christianity, but it was one very different from his own upbringing. Trevor had been raised Church of England but had left the church as a young teenager and not returned, to it or any other church, much to his parents’ sorrow. Liz had been raised an Evangelical Presbyterian, and she had gradually and finally successfully coaxed Trevor to church. They dated for three years before Liz had finally asked him if he was going to marry her or not. They’d been married in the church Liz attended with her family in London. His own parents had been wild about their new daughter-in-law, amazed that Trevor had married a believing Christian. Before children came, Liz had worked in an investment bank in the City while Trevor had joined the same law chambers he worked with now.
When Jane arrived two years later, and Andrew four years after that, it had seemed natural to raise the children in Liz’s church, even though Trevor had never formally joined and had never made any kind of formal or informal commitment to faith. He said her church was fine; what he seemed to have a problem with was with C of E churches, saying he didn’t like all the liturgical trappings. But Liz’s church was “low church,” and liturgy was not an emphasis. Liz often worried about his lack of religious commitment, and would talk with him about it, but Trevor seemed almost determined to avoid it. He attended worship service with the family every Sunday, and Liz knew he did it more to please her than to learn or understand anything himself. When the time came for the children to start their education, Trevor had agreed with Liz to send the children to ICS.
Jane had not initially surprised them last March when she rather shyly told them that she had been invited to the coronation of Michael and Sarah Kent-Hughes as king and queen. They knew that the two adopted sons of Michael and Sarah attended ICS, and that Jason Kent-Hughes was in her year. They assumed this was a school thing for the coronation.
“Is the whole class invited, Jane?” Liz had asked.
“Well, not exactly, Mother.” She hesitated as she looked from her father to her mother. “Actually, Jason invited me, and Chris and Laura, too. He has three guest tickets for the coronation ceremony.”

Trevor had arched his eyebrows. Jane had been on a few dates with various boys before, but this was the first mention of a connection to Jason Kent-Hughes. He and Liz had been given tickets to the ceremony and the formal ball, but this was the first he realized that his daughter might have a boyfriend, one who was a member of the royal family.
“That must be a great thrill, Jane,” he’d said, smiling. “People rarely get an opportunity to actually attend the crowning of a king and queen.”
She’d smiled and nodded at her father. “Oh, Dad, it’s for the whole thing,” she said excitedly, her eyes shining. “It’s the coronation at Westminster Abbey, we get to ride with Jason in a carriage in the procession to the palace, and then the coronation ball and the big bash at Wembley Stadium. Jason said that you and Mother would have invitations to Wembley, too, if you were interested.”
Liz stared at her daughter. “Jane, we had no idea you knew Jason this well.” Trevor thought that was something of an understatement; he could see Liz was borderline put-out that Jane had never previously mentioned anything about Jason.
“Oh, Mother,” she said, “he’s wonderful. He’s not like anything you’d expect, even from all the photos and stories in the newspaper. He’s quiet and rather serious, but he’s got the most beautiful eyes and smile. And you should see his paintings, they’re just incredible for someone so young. He has some rough edges sometimes, I think it has to do with his background, but he’s kind and considerate. And he’s great fun. We met in the library, and then started studying together, and we’ve seen each other at parties and friends’ houses. He’s just wonderful.”
As Jane went on about Jason, Trevor could see that his daughter had developed what was certainly her first major crush. And he reminded himself that this was the young man who had risked his own life to disarm the assailant of Sarah Kent-Hughes in the park in San Francisco the previous October.
“Jane,” her mother asked, “has he said what his background is, or how he came to be adopted by the king? Michael’s not that much older than Jason is.” She looked at Trevor, who shook his head. He didn’t know, either.
“He hasn’t said much, Mother,” Jane said. “I have an impression that his parents had given him up for adoption when he was much younger. He said he came to live with the Kent-Hughes not long after they were married in San Francisco.”
What had surprised, and favorably impressed, both Trevor and Liz was that Jason had personally delivered the engraved coronation invitation for Jane, introduced himself, and very formally asked Trevor to take Jane to the coronation events, explaining exactly where they would be, who they would be with, and what time he would have her home. And he had been true to his word on all counts. Trevor had been impressed, and Liz had been wowed.
Trevor and Liz had gone to the coronation ball but decided that Wembley might be a bit beyond their age bracket. They had been at Westminster Abbey for the coronation, but were later surprised to see Jane, Chris and Laura on the balcony with the royal family, waving to the tens of thousands in front of the palace and identified by name by the newscasters as friends of Jason Kent-Hughes. Trevor had explained to Michael that the balcony tradition was for royals only, but Michael must have decided to break with tradition.
They’d watched Jason and Jane at the ball and had smiled at the thrilled look on Jane’s face when King Michael had asked her to dance. (“That’s a story she can tell her grandchildren and great-grandchildren,” Liz told Trevor. “She danced with a king at his coronation ball.”) They had later watched the celebration at Wembley Stadium on television with Andrew at home. When Jason delivered Jane home in a car driven by palace security at 2 a.m., right at the promised time, she and Liz had stayed up until dawn talking about all of what had transpired and reliving the entire day. Liz told Trevor later that of all the events and experiences their daughter had had, the one that had left the greatest impression was Jason’s gentle kiss goodnight at the door, their daughter’s first kiss by a boy.
Since the coronation in early May, Jason had become something of a fixture at the Barrys’ home in The Ridgeway in Watford, an upper middle-class neighborhood of four-bedroom homes. Trevor could see that Jason was as taken with his daughter as she seemed to be with him. Jane’s visits to the palace had initially worried Trevor that she might have her head turned by being around Michael and Sarah. But it simply hadn’t happened. She seemed to take Jason’s family in stride, and it likely helped that Michael and Sarah seemed to have gone out of their way to create something as close to a normal family life as possible.
“Sarah makes the king stay out of the kitchen when she’s cooking dinner,” Jane said, reporting on a dinner she shared with the family. “He’s apparently hopeless when it comes to cooking. Jim tells wild stories of what it was like eating with his father before he and Sarah married. The king minds Hank, changes his diaper, and feeds him while she’s doing a meal. And then he and Jason do the cleanup, with Jim required to clear the table.”
Trevor didn’t know what he was more impressed with – the queen cooking the family’s dinner, the king changing a diaper, or the king and Jason cleaning up the dirty dishes. “It’s seems they’re determined to have as normal a family life as possible in that fishbowl of a place,” he said to Liz.
He found himself truly liking Jason. He could see what Jane had meant about “a bit rough around the edges,” as if there had been gaps in his education or at least in some aspects of his social development, but the young man was both polite and could carry on a conversation incredibly well for what one normally expected from teenaged boys, especially when the conversation was with the parents of the girlfriend. And Jason told him a little about his background, confirming what Jane had said about being given up for adoption at an earlier age (“My mother had remarried, and my stepfather didn’t want me”). Trevor assumed that he had been in some kind of foster care situation until adopted by Michael and Sarah. Liz really liked the boy as well, but Trevor felt a strong connection with the young man, as if the two of them were on a deeper level of communication than their surface conversation would indicate. And he had seen something of a similar response in Jason. For all the differences in our backgrounds, it was almost as if they could read each other’s minds.
Their home was not far from the London Northwest Trail, which Trevor cycled as much as he could. He was something beyond being a cycle enthusiast; Liz often referred to him as the bike fanatic, which he himself admitted was closer to the truth. She often suggested that he find a friend to cycle with, and while he agreed that was a good idea, the fact was that Trevor had few if any male friends, and none who cycled.

He could feel the tube train slowing as they approached Notting Hill Gate Station. Jane stood and smiled as she leaned over and kissed Trevor’s cheek, followed by Andrew doing the same.
“Have a good day, you two,” Trevor said, smiling at his children. He watched them as they exited the car, quickly blending into the crowd.
He had to remind himself to exit at St. James’s Park. The habit of exiting at Temple Station was sometimes too strong, and he needed to arrive at the palace early. Michael wanted to talk with him privately before the advisory meeting started. It was a meeting unlike any Trevor had ever considered attending – a small group of church and lay people quietly drawn together to begin discussions of what a reformed Church of England might look like.
Michael had been giving sermons at various churches in the London area since he had arrived the previous December. He was drawing increasingly large crowds to hear his message on reforming and rebuilding the church. His sermon at Southwark Cathedral had remarkably started something of a revival in the diocese, to the point where the newspapers even published stories about it. And Michael’s speech at a bishops’ conference two weeks before the coronation had rocked the Anglican world, inspiring both a backlash from the church hierarchy, widespread support from Anglican churches in Africa and Asia, and the introduction of several proposals in Parliament, mostly as amendments to previously introduced legislation. But parliamentary progress had slowed; the proposals seemed to have become bottled up in committee hearings.
Trevor recognized the irony of him, an agnostic on a good day and essentially nothing on most days, being relied upon for advice and counsel by a deeply Christian king. Michael knew where Trevor stood spiritually, which was anywhere except belief, but that hadn’t stopped Michael from relying upon him and fully trusting him. At first surprised, Trevor had come to appreciate how much the king’s trust meant.
He had also begun to understand how much the king was part of something larger than himself, and it had begun to unsettle Trevor’s decades-old comfort with agnosticism. Liz carried the spiritual leadership in their home, and he was content with that. But he had never made any kind of personal decision or commitment.
And he knew Liz often wondered why; he had overheard her quietly talking with his parents when they visited from his hometown in Yorkshire. She knew Trevor had been raised an Anglican; his father had told her that after age 12 or 13, Trevor had adamantly refused to attend church.
“He’d been so involved before that,” Trevor’s mother had said to Liz. “But then he just refused to go anymore.”
Trevor knew his unsettled feelings had begun in a conversation he’d had with Josh Gittings. Trevor had been surprised that someone with Gittings’ reputation had thrown over politics to work with the King. He was equally surprised that someone with Michael’s reputation had hired Gittings as his chief of staff. Gittings himself had been completely candid about it, acknowledging what was on Trevor’s mind the first time the two men met, and openly discussing his reputation as something of a political shark. And then, later, a second conversation had left Trevor with a strong sense of personal disquiet.
After a meeting with Michael, Gittings and Trevor had walked together to the palace’s security entrance and then to the St. James’s Park tube station, he headed east to return to his offices in the Temple and Gittings headed west for lunch with Zina Chatwick, his fiancée, in Chelsea near Sloane Square.
“In a way,” Trevor had said as they walked, “well, perhaps more than one way, it’s rather an odd thing that Michael finds himself on the throne.”
“What do you mean?” said Josh.
“Well, the fact that he was a priest, for starters,” Trevor said. “Britain’s royals have always had either direct military experience or some strong tie to the military. Even Queen Elizabeth was in the military in World War II, and King James had done his obligatory duty at Sandhurst. But Michael is the first ordained priest ever to become king, without any military experience whatsoever.”

“I had this very conversation with Father John Stevens in San Francisco,” Gittings said. “He was the senior minister at St. Anselm’s.”
“I met him and his wife at the coronation,” Trevor said. “Delightfully charming gentleman.”
Gittings nodded. “He’d worked very closely with Michael for two years, and he had some solid insights into both Michael’s ministry and Michael as a man. When I made that same observation about Michael being a priest who became king, Father John just chuckled. ‘Why do you think that might be?’ he asked. I said I had no idea other than coincidence, and he said God doesn’t work in coincidences.”
“What did he say?” Trevor said.
“He said that God picks the man needed for the job at hand. And wasn’t it fascinating that Michael had essentially been essentially exiled to the hinterlands as a child, reared completely away from anything even remotely royal, felt called into the priesthood when he was relatively young, and was then sent to what he called the outer edges of the Anglican world, away from the center and all that the center implied. ‘God was preparing Michael,’ Father John said, ‘as surely as you and I are sitting here. And he was less interested in military and palace experience and far more interested in raising up a man after His own heart.’ A man after His own heart, Father John said, would spend a lot of his time in prayer, seeking to do God’s will rather than his own. Military experience, or years spent in the palace environment, or even understanding the political world paled in comparison to what God was doing.”
Trevor had been quiet for a time, taking in what Gittings had said, and then spoke. “It does look like too many coincidences for there not to be a plan.”
Gittings had laughed. “Oh, I think there’s a plan, all right. The trick is finding out what it is. God didn’t conveniently write it all down, unfortunately. And it keeps Michael on his knees.”
This morning, following a short conference with Michael, Trevor would help open the advisory group’s first meeting and lead the discussions. Michael had asked him to make a presentation on monarchial law as it related to the Church of England, with a good dollop of royal and church history thrown in. Trevor had spent weeks preparing, amusing Liz no end by burying himself in his study with tomes like The History of Ecclesiastical Law in England and Contemporary Church Law in Britain, Fifth Edition. He saw the irony, but he knew she hoped that his association with the king would lead him to question his own lack of faith. So far, that hadn’t directly happened. But Trevor felt the unraveling at the edges, and he didn’t know where it would lead.
As long as it didn’t lead behind the dark wall.

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