Chapter XVIII

"All right, I'm ready." Maxine stepped into the room wearing a pair of blue

Levis and a black turtleneck. She looked relaxed and a smile illuminated her face. Ann had been sitting waiting for Maxine while flipping through TV channels. She was fascinated; TV wasn't allowed in the convent, and for the first time she began to realize just how cut off she had been from popularculture during her time there.

"Hi, I've been channel surfing." She turned around and smiled at Maxine.

The actress came around the couch carrying a pair of socks and sat down near Ann to put them on. "It's incredible the things you learn when you watch TV."

"Like what?" asked Maxine, amused.

"Cooking, how to repair almost anything, how to redecorate someone's house. Incredible."

Maxine laughed, took the remote from Ann and turned the TV off. "Right," she said with sarcasm and laughter. "Shall we go?"

"Sure. Can I really go out like this?" Ann suddenly felt self conscious.

"You're a nun, right?"

"You're right. I'm being silly."

Maxine smiled again. She seemed not to be able to keep a smile off her face when she was with the young nun. "I understand though. I'd let you borrow some clothes, but they'd be way too big for you. Let's just get you somenew things. Ok?"

Ann nodded. "Aren't you going to put some shoes on?" she asked, glancing at the actress' feet.

"Right. Be right back." Maxine took off in a sprint and slid around the corner, nearly colliding with the wall in the process.

Ann chuckled. She felt happy, and was looking forward to spending the day

roaming around New York.

"Now I'm ready." Maxine was now wearing a pair of boots. She took out a

leather coat from the closet in the entrance and opened the front door. Ann put on her long gray cap, and they both stepped out.

"We'll take a cab." Maxine pressed the button for the lobby and leaned back against the elevator's wall while twisting her long black hair into a clip. "New York is a windy town." She smiled at the nun and laid her head back, waiting for the elevator to reach the lobby. In truth she was worried. She was ready to start a new life, but she didn't know if the rest of the world was ready to let her. She sighed heavily, thinking to herself that nothing was ever easy.

"You're very silent," commented Ann as the elevator reached its destination.

"Nah, don't worry about me." Maxine brushed off Ann's comment, wanting to put her dark thoughts away. It was a positive step though. A few months ago, any dark thought sent her straight for the bottle and drugs. It had been a way to forget. It had started as just a way to lift her spirit when she was down, and had quickly become a habit she was unable to kick.

"I didn't say I was worried, I said you were silent." Ann followed the actress across the lobby, and as soon as they stepped outside her senses were immediately overwhelmed. The sudden transition from a quiet building to the unfamiliarly busy street was disorienting. The noise of the traffic passing by was almost tangible, and all the cars and pedestrians rushing in every direction was visually disconcerting. Even the mingled scents of car exhausts, faint diesel fumes and well-worn pavement made her feel as if she were in a foreign land. The sun seemed to be shining, but the tall buildings stopped its rays from reaching them. She shivered.

"Cold?" asked Maxine while hailing a cab with her right hand.

"A little."

"We'll get you a jacket. I told you New York is drafty."

A yellow cab screeched to a stop in front of them, almost sending Ann face first to the sidewalk as she tried to avoid it. "Where are we going?"

"Corner of 44th and Fifth avenue," she answered, giving directions to the cab driver at the same time. The driver nodded and took off, shoving Ann back against the seat. She grabbed the handle and hung on to it.

"Relax." Maxine squeezed Ann's shoulders reassuringly. "It's their job.

They do that all day long."

"Excuse me Miss 'Nothing Fazes Me', but this guy is insane." She stared straight ahead, hanging on tight.

"We're almost there." Maxine had just finished her sentence when the cab

driver pulled over.

Maxine paid him and stepped onto the curb, followed by Ann. Before Ann closed the door, the driver turned around and smiled. "I've never killed anyone, Sister," he said, half laughing, half serious.

Ann looked at him not knowing how to respond and closed the door slowly.

The cab took off even faster than before. Maxine was laughing out loud by now.

"Maxine! This is not funny. I offended him."

"He is a New York cab driver. He is used to being offended. If that's the worst that happens to him today, he'll have had a good day!" Maxine chuckled at Ann's nonplussed expression. "Let's get you some clothes."

"Fine." Ann was pouting. She hadn't been made fun of in a long time, and she wasn't sure she liked it.

"Stop pouting. Let's go here." Maxine put her hand behind Ann's back to direct her toward the store.

"Banana Republic?"

"Yeah, it's trendy, fashionable and they have really nice clothes."

"You know better than I do."

"I do, don't I?" Maxine was again beaming and she had said the last words with a big smile and an intentionally pompous tone.

"What's with you today?"

"Hey, this could be my last few days of freedom, so I might as well enjoy it."

"And that includes tormenting me?"

"That's part of it."

Ann gently slapped her on the shoulder while following her inside the store.

Maxine stopped in the entrance and opened her arms wide. "Here we go. Shop away."

"I'm going to need your help. I don't even know what's appropriate anymore."

"Follow me." She took them to the second floor, where rows of skirts, blouses, jackets, pants and sweaters were displayed. Shoppers' eyes were definitely directed toward them. They made an odd pair, a nun dressed in full habit and a tall beauty wearing fitted jeans and a leather jacket.

"Can I help you?" asked a short blond with a diamond nose ring. Ann read her name on her worker tag 'Heather.'

"Nah, we're good," answered Maxine, turning her back to her to make a point. Ann smiled at her to excuse Maxine's rudeness.

"Wait a minute! You're Maxine Johnston!"

To be continued

copyright(c)malaurie barber 2002

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