Chapter X

Maxine wandered around the second floor in search of Ann. The building had been built with intricate corridors and Maxine found herself turned around more than once. As she explored the old house, she became more and more intrigued by its inhabitants. Everyone she crossed paths with seemed to be, heading somewhere in a hurry, carrying books, or talking animatedly with someone else. Her opinion of convents was based on books she had read and preconceived ideas, but there tucked away from the rest of the world, she realized that the nuns had very busy lives and had created their own rules.

She gave up on the second floor and once again walked down the wooden steps to the main floor. She headed away from Mother Clarence's office and the kitchen, toward the west wing. Walking down another set of corridors with large windows and white walls, Maxine realized that the décor had suddenly changed. Children's coats were hung from hooks on the walls, and the white paint disappeared behind children's drawings. A smile crept across the actress's face as she recognized Ann on one of the drawings. A child had drawn the young nun as a stick figure, but she had been given a full head of reddish hair. Maxine peeked through the window into a large classroom where she spotted Ann surrounded by children. Maxine stood there mesmerized by the young nun. She seemed to be in total control, every child in the room looked at her with wonder, and no one seemed to dare to speak until Ann was finished. Maxine watched a wave of hands rise as soon as Ann sat down at the large piano in the corner of the room. The nun waved at a young girl and motioned for her to come and stand next to her. As the young girl made her way to the platform next to Ann, the young nun's eyes met Maxine's through the window. They held their gaze for a brief moment before Ann broke the connection and started playing.

Maxine let her curiosity win over and gently propped the door open to hear the melody coming from Ann's flying fingers on the keyboard. The young girl's voice was clear and melodic as she sang. Maxine couldn't recognize the melody, but instead concentrated on watching Ann. The song ended and Ann thanked the girl, congratulated her and sent the class on its way. A flock of children came flying by Maxine, picking up their jackets and joking with each other. Maxine let them go by, and stepped into the classroom, suddenly feeling a little insecure and wondering if she had made the right move by coming to look for Ann. She buried her hands into the pockets of her jeans, and smiled. "Didn't mean to interrupt you," she explained, feeling like a deer caught in the headlights.

"You didn't. The class was almost over." Ann stood up from the piano stool and reached for the black board eraser. She meticulously proceeded to remove the music notes written on the board.

Maxine looked around the room, not knowing what to say. It had seem like a good idea at the time, but as she now stood in the same room with the young nun, she found herself at lost for words. "I learned how to milk a cow today." Boy, that sounded very smart, she thought immediately after speaking up.

Ann smiled to herself and put the eraser back. "Very good. How is Sister Candy treating you?"

"She is not following me around like you did, so I guess that's a plus." Maxine smiled at Ann, realizing for the first time that something was missing. "How come your head is not covered?" she asked, looking with surprise at Ann's long reddish hair floating around her shoulders. The nun looked even younger without her veil.

"Sister Candy is much more experienced than I am. She'll straighten you out." Ann answered, choosing to ignore Maxine's question. She closed the piano lid and pushed the bench under it. "Were you looking for me, or were you just wandering around?"

"I was looking for you," confessed Maxine.

"What for?"

"I'm not too sure." Maxine looked straight into Ann's eyes, surprised at the intensity and their deep blue color.

"Well, Miss Johnston, if you'll excuse me, I have some..."

"Walk with me," interrupted Maxine.

"Excuse me?"

"Take a walk with me. We have about an hour before dinner. Unless you have some chores to do, please walk with me."

Ann hesitated a moment and tucked her hair behind her ears. "All right then, but if we go outside, please let me go and put something warmer on."


They hurried in silence back to their respective rooms. Maxine cursed herself for not having anything warmer than over shirts to wear, and as she did earlier, she added layers upon layers to keep herself warm. She waited for Ann downstairs, ignoring the stares from the sisters walking by as she paced impatiently.

Upstairs, Ann grabbed her wool cape and gloves, and put her veil back on, wondering why Maxine seemed so eager to spend time with her. She briefly crossed herself when passing the large cross next to the door and went in search of the actress. She found her, staring at a large reproduction of Madonna and Child.

"It's interesting to see how disproportioned each one of the characters is. Plus, no offense but Jesus looked like an old man."

Ann chuckled. "The original is from the middle-ages. They were not too worried about realism back then."

"I guess I have to brush up on my history then," smiled Maxine. She opened the front door and stepped outside into the cold windy air, followed by Ann. They walked in silence for a little while, strolling through the front yard toward the back of the building.

"What made you decide on thisype of life?" asked Maxine, opening the conversation.

Ann looked briefly at Maxine, surprised at the question, and looked ahead of her, burying her face into the scarf neatly wrapped around her neck. The sound of metal and glass breaking resonated through Ann's mind and the vision of her mother laying in a ditch with blood streaming down her face stopped Ann dead in her tracks. She stood there looking ahead, her eyes fixed on the horizon, not seeing anything but the memories of what drove her to the life she was now leading. The drugs and alcohol she indulged in so she could forget, her sister following her in her path of destruction and finally overdosing. Ann was shaken out of her dreamscape by Maxine.

"Hey, to Sister Ann." Maxine grabbed the young nun by the shoulders and shook her slightly, panicking at Ann's lack of response. She looked around, searching for a place to sit Ann down and spotted a bench near the large oak trees. She pushed Ann towards the bench and sat her down. "What's going on here?" she asked, worried, taking Ann's face in her hands, bringing her eyes to her level.

Ann felt sudden warmth on her face and her eyes came into focus, staring into Maxine's large pale green eyes which were filled with concern. She realized that the warmth came from Maxine's hands on her face, and blushing lightly she brushed them away.

"I thought I'd lost you for a minute. What happened?" said Maxine softly.

"Memories from the past," answered Ann, still trying to remain focused on the present.

"Did I trigger them with my question?"

"Not a problem. I'm really tired now, and not really up to a walk, could you walk me back to the building?" Maxine stood up, and offered her arm to Ann who accepted it. "Please accept my apologies. I should be the one taking care of you and not vice versa."

"No need to apologize," answered Maxine, concerned but unwilling to pry.

They walked in silence back to the building, each lost in thought.

To be continued

copyright(c)malaurie barber 2001

Feeb the bard


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