Chapter XI

Ann avoided Maxine over the next few days, briefly crossing paths with her in the corridor and pushing past her quickly, avoiding eye contact. Maxine's question had woken up memories the young nun thought she had managed to hide deeply inside her soul. She had spent the night after their walk pacing in her room before finally collapsing on her bed from exhaustion. She had woken up before the sun was up and started doing chore after chore, hoping to re-bury the memories deeper inside her soul, but even her intense labor had been unsuccessful at this, and as the days went by she found it harder and harder to deal with the images haunting her.

It was late Thursday evening and Ann was in her classroom, rearranging furniture and preparing her lesson for the following day. Her body was aching from the intense physical activity she had been putting it through, and she stopped to rest for a minute on the piano bench and let her hand wander over the keys.

"So this is where you're hiding," said a voice from behind Ann. She didn't need to turn around to know to whom the voice belonged to. Too often over the past years the same voice had forced her out of her shell.

"I'm not hiding," she answered without conviction.

Mother Clarence stepped into the room and sat on the opposite side of the bench. "Thou shalt not lie...remember," said Mother Clarence softly.

Ann blew a strand of loose hair from her face and tugged it back under her coif.

Mother Clarence smiled warmly. "You've been running around the convent non-stop for the past few days. I know you very well Ann, and I also know that you only do that when you are trying to forget." Mother Clarence use of Ann's first name instead of Sister Ann had always been a signal for Ann that at that moment in time the boundaries imposed between them by the convent rules were suddenly lifted.

"I'm all right. Thank you. I've just had a lot on my mind...yes, I've prayed and asked for guidance."

"This is not what I was going to ask." Mother Clarence's voice was soft and her gaze swept gently over Ann's small frame. "Ann, the only time I have seen you act the way you are acting right now was shortly after the death of your sister. Keeping ourselves busy only helps us put our problems aside, but does nothing to confront them."

"I know," whispered Ann.

Mother Clarence stood up, and slowly walked toward the door. "It is not my position to ask what is on your mind, but Ann..." Mother Clarence trailed off for a few seconds before continuing. "Don't let the ghosts from the past haunt you." She looked at Ann one last time and slowly walked away, leaving the young nun to her thoughts.

Ann remained on the piano bench lost in thought until she was brought back by the sound of the church bell ringing 11 o'clock. She quickly finished straightening up the room, pushed the bench back under the piano, and left the room. Her walk was more determined than it had been over the past few days and she took the stairs two by two, bypassed her bedroom, and continued down the corridor, stopping in front of Maxine's room. Unwilling to lose the momentum, she didn't stop to think and knocked at the door.

Maxine heard a strong knock and put her book down. "I'm not doing anything wrong," she yelled at the door before yanking on a pair of sweats hung over the back of the chair to cover her long legs. She passed her hand through her hair and opened the door.

"I swear I was just re...Sister Ann!" she said, surprised, stopping her explanation. "Are you all right?" she asked immediately after taking one look at the young nun's tired face.

"May I come in?" Maxine nodded and stepped aside to let Ann into her room, closing the door behind. "Ask me again?"

"Ask you what?" asked Maxine, not understanding the question.

"The question you asked me during our walk the other day."

Maxine almost laughed at the nun's request, but stopped seeing the serious look on Ann's face. "What made you decide on this type of life?"

"I killed my mother and sister."

Maxine looked at Ann intensely, trying to read the truth behind the answer, not believing it.

"This is the truth Miss Johnston. The simple truth. Now I am sure you're going to look at me with different eyes." Ann turned around and reached for the door, but Maxine stopped her, grabbing her hand before it reached the doorknob.

"Why did you come here tonight?"

"You asked me a question a few days ago and I owed you an answer." Ann avoided Maxine's eyes, but didn't try to remove her hand from Maxine's grip.

"Sister Ann, you don't strike me as the type of person who takes somebody away from a good book late at night just to give them an answer to a question they've asked three days ago." Maxine let go of the nun's hand once she knew she had her attention. She softened her voice before continuing. "Please sit down and tell me the complete story." Ann stood hesitantly. "Ann, I know I've been a royal pain ever since I got here, but I truly believe that if I have made it this far it's because of you...I owe you. Plus I want to know."

Ann searched Maxine's eyes for any hint of dishonesty, but she only saw truthfulness. She bowed her head and walked defeatedly to the bed, sitting down and putting her hands flat onto her lap, secretly vowing and praying to be able to keep her emotions under control. Maxine pulled her chair closer to the bed, but left enough room for Ann not to feel crowded, and she looked at the young nun before saying, "We have all night, I'm not going anywhere."

To be continued

copyright(c)malaurie barber 2001

Feeb the bard

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