Ann smoothed out an imaginary wrinkle on her gown and lifted her face towards Maxine. "Why do you want to know so much about me?
Maxine settled against the back of her chair and smiled. "Don't know. I guess you believed in me and fought for me, and not too many people have done that in the past few years."
"You are a Hollywood actress, correct?"
"Was. I haven't had any roles in at least two years. Hollywood doesn't accept aging actresses very well." Maxine ran her long fingers through her hair and crossed her legs at the ankles.
"What about actresses like Judy Dench, Jodie Foster... I mean she has to be in her late 30's now."
Maxine shook her head. "It doesn't matter, and you didn't come here to talk about me."
Ann sighed. "All right, but before I start can I ask one question?" Maxine nodded. "Have you ever thought that maybe Hollywood has rejected you because of your substance abuse, not because of your age?" Maxine's eyes darkened and a fiery retort had begun to form on her lips even before Ann had finished her sentence, but her anger died as soon as she met Ann's pale blue eyes.
"Enough about me, ok?" Maxine pleaded in a whisper. Ann nodded. "Talk to me."
Ann took a deep breath and stood up. She walked toward the far wall and closed her eyes for a few seconds, facing it, before speaking.
"I was born in Virginia. My father died when I was five, and my mother raised me and my younger sister, Emily. I wasn't a troubled teenager, I got good grades in school, and I made it to my sophomore year at the University of Virginia before everything happened." She paused for a few seconds, running her hand against the smooth white wall, then slowly turned back toward Maxine. "My mother and I got into many arguments...I guess it's normal between parents and children. One day we were on our way to go and visit my aunt and I was driving when we crashed." She stopped and breathed deeply.
"What caused the accident?" asked Maxine softly, feeling that there was something more to the story.
Ann looked ahead, her eyes staring in the distance, the accident replaying in her mind. "Same argument has usual, mother thought I should go into pre-med, and I had tried many times to explain to her that it just wasn't for me...silly argument, but it always got the best of me." She stopped again and walked back to sit on the bed. "I didn't want to hear her out this time, so I turned the music up very loud...we came to an intersection, the music was blasting, mother was yelling...I didn't hear the truck. It hit us from the side, sent the car out of control. We flipped a few times and it threw mother through the windshield, right into a tree, killing her instantly." Ann's hands had balled into fists, and her body had become extremely tense.
Maxine stood up and poured a glass of water from the old pitcher sitting on the corner table, and brought it to Ann. "Here," she said gently, causing Ann to relax her hands to accept the glass.
"Thank you," said the young nun before taking a long drink of the cold water.
"You don't have to continue if you don't want to. I'll still be here tomorrow night," said Maxine gently, wanting to put the younger woman at ease.
"The story is mostly over. My mother died, I felt responsible. My aunt couldn't take care of us, and since she is the only living relative we had, we ended up by ourselves. I was almost 18, so the court agreed to let me take care of my sister. I quit school, moved back home and tried to be a good example. I started hanging out with the wrong crowd, my sister followed. I overindulged in everything, booze and drugs...so did my sister. One day she overdosed. That's it, the end." Ann stood up abruptly, having told her story in a flat voice, almost feigning indifference.
Maxine felt that Ann was almost at the end of her rope, but she decided to push it further. "How did you end up here?" She grabbed Ann's hand and gently sat her back on the bed, meeting almost no resistance.
"My aunt took me in."
"Your aunt?" Maxine shook her head, not understanding.
"Mother Clarence. Without her I would probably be dead by now. When Emily died, the hospital called her, she came, and without asking me if I wanted to or not, brought me here. I was too messed up to argue."
"Mother Clarence is your aunt?" Ann nodded. "It's a great place to come and kick the habit, but becoming one of them? Come on!"
Ann smiled sadly. "I had nothing left. I found solace in prayer...the real world has nothing appealing to me anymore. This is my home."
"So you are here hiding from reality."
"Think what you want, I have nothing to prove." Ann stood again and this time walked to the door. "I didn't tell you this story to make you pity me, I felt that I owed you an explanation. Now if you'll excuse me." She opened the door.
"Wait!" Called Maxine, jumping to her feet. She held the door, stopping Ann from stepping out. "Thank you for sharing with me. I know it's harder than you're letting it seem. No one can live through what you've been through and not be scarred for life." She squeezed Ann's hand, briefly forgetting Ann's position. "I like you Sister Ann, you're different from everyone else in here. You've kept your humanity. As much as you try to deny it, you are still reaching to the outside world. I don't think you're ready to spend the rest of your life hiding in a convent."
Ann firmly removed her hand from Maxine's grip. "Let me be the judge of that," she said before walking out, leaving Maxine to stare at the door.
Go to Chapter XIII
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