Chapter XXI

Maxine led the way across the room. It had gotten even more crowded than before they stepped out on the balcony. They had barely reached the door when Colleen stopped them.

"Hey, where are you going?"

"We're taking off. Thanks for the invite though."

"Wait a minute." Colleen came closer to Maxine and ran her hands down her arms seductively. "I haven't seen you in months, I was worried sick. You weren't returning my phone calls, and I had no idea where you were." She got closer to Maxine, her eyes looking deeply into the actress'. "I missed you." She then bent toward Maxine and kissed her, grabbing her face with both her hands.

"Colleen drop it." Maxine pushed her away. The blond stepped back, an offended look on her face. She opened her mouth as if to say something, but instead looked at Maxine with sad eyes and walked away.

Maxine sighed. "Let's go." Ann was still staring in shock at the spot where Colleen had stood just a few seconds ago.

"Come on," said Maxine with impatience. The ride back home was quiet, each lost in their own thoughts. Ann stared blankly outside; the nightlights passing her by like a blur. Maxine watched Ann from the corner of her eye. She wondered why she had even bothered to go to the party. She must have known deep down inside that Colleen would demand an explanation. She shook her head and passed her hand through her hair as the cab stopped in front of the building.

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Maxine turned the lights on, kicked her shoes off and walked to the kitchen to get a drink. "Do you want something to drink?" she called out to Ann.

"Water would be great. Thanks." She grabbed a bottle of Coke for herself and poured Ann a glass of water. She took a deep breath before crossing the kitchen threshold.

"Here you go." Ann smiled faintly and took the glass of water.

Maxine dropped on the couch and put her feet on the coffee table. "Let's talk then."

"Ok." Ann sat down on the opposite side of the couch and looked at Maxine.

"Go on. Ask away."

"All right." Ann crossed one leg under the other and got comfortable.

"What was that about?"

Maxine did not need to ask what Ann was referring to. "A welcome home kiss."

"Please don't be sarcastic with me...not tonight."

"Fine." Maxine switched position, tucking her feet under her.

"Colleen is an old friend. We dated for a while."

"You dated," Ann repeated, more as a statement than a question.

"Yes, we dated. On and off for a few years. Never anything too serious."

"All right. Ann was trying to digest the information. "Are you a homosexual?"

Maxine laughed at the name. She had been called many things because of her tendency, but none of them had been as nice as homosexual.

"You could say so."

"Well, are you or are you not?"

"Yes, I am."

Ann looked at Maxine intensely, her eyes scrutinizing her. She took a deep breath and released the air out slowly. "I don't know if I can help you with that."

"What?" "Drugs and alcohol I know, I've gone down that road. I know how to help you stay in line, but that...I don't know how to help you."

Maxine laughed out loud and stopped suddenly. She locked eyes with Ann. "Sister Ann, no one said I needed any help in that department."

"But you..."

"You asked me a question, I answered, but I don't consider being a lesbian something I need to be saved from." She got up and slammed her glass on the coffee table. "Gosh, it's because of people like you that homosexuality is still considered a disease. It is not." She looked at Ann's perplexed expression and put her hands in front of her. "I'm not having this conversation. This is who I am. Take it or leave it." She then walked away.

Ann stayed on the couch for a few moments, too stunned to move. Homosexuality was not something new to her. During her days of partying she had been in touch with a wide variety of people, but her years at the convent had put new convictions in her mind.

A loud crash made her jump. She ran to Maxine's bedroom and knocked loudly at the door. "Are you all right?" she yelled through the wooden frame. She waited a few seconds for an answer and slowly opened the door. Maxine stood by the window, gazing outside. Her tall frame was barely visible in the darkness of the room. Ann stepped in. A strong alcohol smelled invaded her lungs as she stepped over broken glass. "Maxine?" She walked to stand behind the actress. "Maxine?"

"Go away."

Ann picked up the half-broken bottle laying on the floor and put it on the nightstand. "Did you..."

"Did I drink?" barked Maxine while turning around to look at Ann.

"No I didn't. You can rest in peace. You're still my savior. I have not gone back to the dark side," she said with sarcasm. "Go away." She turned away from Ann and resumed her prior position.

Ann passed her hand through her hair. "No, I'm not going anywhere until you listen to my explanation." Maxine ignored her. "Fine, I'll talk anyway." She moved to Maxine's side. "Listen, if you had been taught most of your life that smoking was wrong wouldnŪt you have a problem with smokers?" Ann waited for an answer, but when she did not get one she continued. "Fine, don't answer. But most of my life I was taught that men and women are made to be together, that the act of making love should result in procreation, and since it is simply impossible to procreate between two people of the same sex, then it is wrong. It is going against God's will."

"And you believed that crap."

"I guess I do."

"Loads of shit." Maxine stood up, and lightly played with the broken bottle on her nightstand. "When you look at me what do you see?"

"I don't know."

"Come on. What do you see?" repeated Maxine with vehemence.

"A very strong-minded courageous woman," answered Ann almost shyly.

"Then don't lose sight of that, but if you think you can't live with me because I'm gay, then you might as well pack up and go. I have other things to worry about in my life and I don't want to feel judged every step of the way." Maxine opened the door to her room. "Good night Sister Ann."

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"What the f..." Maxine sat up in bed and reached for the phone.

"7 a.m....Hello?"

"Yes, hello, this is Mother Clarence. May I speak with Sister Ann please?"

"Hello Mother Clarence, it's Maxine. I think she's still sleeping. I'll go check." She grabbed her robe and with sleepy eyes went to knock at Ann's bedroom door.

"Come in."

"Sorry to wake you up, but ..."

"You're not waking me up. What's the matter?"

"Your aunt is on the phone." She handed Ann the handset. "I'm going back to bed."

"Hello?"

"Ann?"

"Yes, what's happening?"

"We're being evicted."

"What? I thought we had until June 1?"

"They need the building before that. Plus, Ann, let's just be realistic. We'll never be able to raise enough money anyway ."

"Have you even tried?"

"Somewhat."

Ann shook her head. "Why didn't you accept Maxine's help? She offered. She's got enough money to buy the building out. I'm starting to think you never wanted to save the building."

Ann heard a loud sigh. "You're right. Ann, think of the past few years. More and more sisters have left us for better convents, and we haven't recruited any novices in a long time."

"But what we do out there helps people."

"We don't have enough patients to sustain ourselves. Ann, the convent has no money left."

"Maxine would have helped."

"Yes, and it would have been all right for maybe one more year, and then what?"

"What about all of us?"

"I have found a place for most of the sisters ."

"Where are you going?"

"A convent near Baltimore."

"What about me? I don't have any place to be."

"You can come with me."

"I don't know...I need to go...I'll be in touch." Ann dropped the phone on her bed and dropped onto her knees. But she didn't even have words for a prayer. She had known this was coming, but deep down inside she had almost hoped for a miracle. A tear trickled down her pale skin and she slowly got back on her feet. Without thinking she walked to Maxine's bedroom, knocked at the door and entered before getting an answer.

"Gosh, is that a family trait to wake people up at the crack of dawn?" Maxine could barely see her through the dim light coming through the shade, but something in Ann's lack of response alarmed her.

She sat up. "Ann, what's wrong?"

"The convent is closing." Maxine moved to the edge of the bed.

"I though they were trying to raise money? And I was under the impression that it wouldn't happen before June?"

"Apparently not," whispered Ann. "I have to go back. I...they are my family. I have to go back, I'm sorry." She then walked away.

"Wait." Maxine sprung out of bed. "Ann!" She caught up with her in the corridor. "I'll go with you."

Ann looked up at her, her eyes filled with tears. "Why?"

"I haven't asked myself that yet," smiled Maxine, her green eyes meeting Ann's. "But I feel you might need a friend."

Ann nodded, sobs caught in her throat. "Thanks." Maxine instinctively reached for her and squeezed her shoulder with affection. "I don't deserve for you to be so nice to me right now."

"Ann, don't be silly."

"No, not after last night. I..."

"Shuh...we'll talk about last night some other time. Let's take it one step at a time."

Ann nodded. She smiled faintly and headed back toward her room, then stopped. "Maxine, what about your audition?"

"Forget about my audition for now. Let's worry about you. Go on."


To be continued

copyright(c)malaurie barber 2002

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