They entered the almost deserted church. Ann dipped her hand in the holy water and crossed herself. As soon as she stepped deeper into the large church a wave of peace rolled over her. This was the first time in years that she had not gone to church on a daily basis and until now she had not realized how much she missed it. She came closer to the altar and sat on one of the wooden benches. She put her hands on her knees and closed her eyes. Maxine followed her lead and, now sitting next to Ann, she was not too sure what was required of her. More than half hour went by and Ann had not move or opened her eyes.
"Sister Ann. Hey!"
Ann opened her eyes and smiled. She felt relaxed and rejuvenated. "What is it?"
"I don't want to be a nag, but if you're going to be much longer I'll go and wait for you at the apartment."
Ann grabbed Maxine's hand. "Close your eyes. Come on, humor me, would you?"
Maxine slowly closed her green eyes, aware of the warmth of Ann's hand on hers. "What now?'
"Shu...just breathe. You don't have to talk to God, but it's always good to reflect, and if God happens to be the one to hear it then that's fine also." Ann did not let go of Maxine's hand and went back into her praying position. Praying for her had always been like meditation. They remained this way for quite sometime before Ann removed her hand from Maxine's. The actress opened her eyes, and felt her hand tingling where Ann's had been.
"That was interesting," she smiled.
"Did you get anything out of it?"
"I feel relaxed."
"Good. You should come with me every morning."
"We'll see. Are you hungry yet?"
"I'll cook us lunch."
They walked back to Maxine's large apartment. Ann settled on the couch while Maxine concocted their lunch in the kitchen.
"Maxine, aren't you going to pick that up?" asked Ann after the phone ran more than four times.
"Probably some stupid reporter, or even worse, Jerry!"
The answering machine clicked into action. Maxine's voice on the recording came on. "I'm not home. You know what to do. Beep."
"Hey Max, it's Colleen. I miss you girl. I'm back from shooting, and I'm having a little get-together tonight. I heard you were back in town, so come on over. I'd love to see you."
Maxine came out with two plates and silverware and set places on the coffee table. "That sounds good. Are you in the mood for socializing?"
"I'm out of practice. Plus I don't know if it's safe for you yet to go to a party. Too many temptations."
'That's where you come into play, right?"
"I guess so. I don't know, Maxine."
"Come on, it will be fun. I promise you're in charge. When you say go we go."
"Fine." Ann gave up, raising her hands up in the air. There was no arguing with Maxine. The actress knew how to be persuasive.
Ann sat in the cab nervously. "Relax. You're twitching. I'm not going to go wild on you. I promise."
"I haven't been to a social function in years. My mother used to have regular gatherings with a very large crowd, but that'd different." She moved her hands nervously as she spoke.
"Here we are." The cab let them out in front of tall apartment building, very similar to Maxine's. The actress smiled at Ann and showed her across the lobby. "Colleen owns a penthouse. She was the only heir of one of New York's most respected music producers. He died a few years backÝ in a nasty car crash," explained Maxine as the elevator took them to the 36th floor.
"That's not good."
"It was hard. Colleen and I have known each other for almost five years. She's been a good friend."
"A good friend such as she was here for you when you needed her, or a good friend she always had booze and drugs when you needed them?"
"Sister Ann. Please don't be so sarcastic." Maxine's tone was serious, but the truth was that Ann's comment had hit home. Colleen had been one of Maxine's party buddies, and suddenly the actress wondered if going to the party was such a wise decision. Before she had time to say anything else, the elevator doors opened. "All right, remember you're in charge. We leave when you say so." Maxine smiled at Ann, and looked at her with appreciation. Ann's appearance tonight would have never let on to anyone that she had devoted her life to God. The red haired woman was wearing a pair of black jeans with a green silk shirt, her hair was floating loosely on her shoulders, and even lacking make up she looked beautiful.
Maxine rang the bell, and a tall blond wearing leather pants opened the door.
"Maxine!" the blond yelled before embracing the actress. "Who is your friend?"
"This is Sis...This is Ann."
"Ann, nice meeting you. I'm Colleen." Colleen shook Ann's hand and invited them to come in. Her large apartment was already crowded. Ann's eyes watered from the large cloud of smoke lingering in the air. "You guys make yourself at home." Colleen squeezed Maxine's shoulders and rushed to meet more people coming in.
"She seems nice," yelled Ann over the loud dance music.
"Yeah, she is."
They stood looking around for a few moments. The leather couches had been moved to the side to make room for dancing and a few people were taking advantage of the open space.
"Having fun yet?" Colleen popped up from behind and put her chin to rest on Maxine's shoulder. "So, where were you for all those months? Your brother refused to tell me. Where you shooting?"
Ann had not realized that Maxine had not told her friends. How could they be so oblivious anyway?
"Just taking some time off."
Colleen studied Maxine's face and playfully kissed her on the cheek. "I'm glad you're back. The fun can start again. Come on, let's get you a drink." Without further ado she dragged Maxine trough the crowd.
Ann followed, barely avoiding an elbow to the stomach as she passed one of the dancers. "Maxine!" She reached them as Colleen handed Maxine a tall drink. The woman took her glass and toasted with Maxine before taking a long sip. Maxine brought the glass to her lips briefly. Ann watched Maxine drink and her stomach tightened.
"All right. I've got to go and pretend to be a good host. Now, don't you dare leave without letting me spend some time with you." She smiled at Maxine and walked away, winking back at her.
"Maxine, you can't do that."
"Ann, chill out. I didn't drink any." She put the glass down on the bar and asked for a coke.
"Why don't you just tell her?"
"It's not that easy."
"It is. 'Hey, by the way, I'm not drinking anymore, nor am I doing drugs. Also since you asked, I was in rehab.' See it's easy."
Maxine sighed. "Let it drop, would you? I'm not going to do anything stupid." She drank her coke down and slammed the glass down on the bar. "I'm going dancing." The actress walked to the middle of the large living room and started swaying to the music.
"You're not dancing?"
The nun turned around and looked at a man in his late twenties. He had curly wavy blond hair, a string nose and prominent bone cheeks. His smile was disarming and Ann found herself blushing. "No, I'm not much into dancing."
"Neither am I really. My name is Sebastian."
"Hi. Nice meeting you. I'm Ann."
"You look like a nice girl. What brings you out to such party?"
"I'm with a friend of mine."
"Who?" She pointed at Maxine who was now dancing more rapidly to the music. "Maxine Johnston. Do you know her?"
"Who doesn't? I haven't seen her in a while though." He bent over and got closer to her. "Be careful, she'll break your heart."
He flashed her a white smile and walked away, leaving Ann behind, stunned.
"Are you ok?" Maxine was out of breath, beads of seat were apparent above her eyebrows. She passed her hands trough her hair and asked for another Coke. "Not too bored yet?"
"I'm good. I'm going to go and get some air though."
"I'll go with you."
"You don't have to."
"Nah, I want to. There's a balcony over there." She directed Ann towards it. Ann welcomed the cold night air, and took a deep breath. "A little too smoky for me in there." Maxine shrugged. The slight wind brushed her bare arms and she shivered.
"I'm good." She walked close to the edge and sat on the ledge.
"Please be careful."
"But you're here to save me. Remember?"
"Can't save you from falling, Maxine."
"I'll be careful."
Ann nodded, but came to stand closer to the actress. Down in the streets they could only seen lights moving and assumed it belonged to a car.
"My parents' apartment had a huge balcony. I used to come here at night when I couldn't sleep and watch the traffic below. I loved it. I loved the noise coming from the city. You know when I first got to the convent, I had trouble sleeping because it was too quiet."
Ann listened attentively. Maxine rarely spoke of her family. "Where are you parents?"
"My father passed away ten years ago from cancer. My mother lives in Florida."
"You never speak about her."
"We're not really close. We call for holidays, birthdays...things like that." Maxine got off the ledge and rested against it.
"Do you know a guy named Sebastian?"
"Sebastian Kravitz. Yes, I do. Why?"
"He introduced himself to me earlier."
"He is a scum bag. Stay away from him."
"Can I ask you something?"
"He said 'be careful, she'll break your heart.' What was he talking about?"
Maxine looked at Ann and shook her head. No matter how hard she tried the past always seemed to catch up with her. It was a conversation she knew would eventually come, but she had hoped it would be on her terms. "I'll explain, but not now."
"I'd like to know." Ann was being persistent.
"I tell you what. Let's go home. I don't want to have this conversation here."
Ann nodded. Every time she thought she had the actress figured out, she threw her for a loop. She was not stupid and had an idea of what Sebastian had meant, but she wanted to hear it from Maxine herself. She also did not know how she would react if her suspicions were right.
Go to chapter XXI
copyright(c)malaurie barber 2002
Return to the Academy