As Maxine stood in the shower she took a deep breath and closed her eyes, letting the water run down her face, slowly soak her hair and slide down her body. She was aware of the nun's presence near the door, but instead of feeling annoyed at this invasion of privacy, she felt a feeling of security creep into her heart. She quickly lathered her hair with shampoo, rinsed off and stepped out. The cold marble on her feet made her shiver slightly, and she hurriedly dried up and dressed.
The bathroom door opened widely and Maxine stepped out. Her wet hair had been pulled back into a ponytail, and she looked refreshed, almost as if the events of the past few days had never happened. "What now?" asked the actress, putting her wet towel around her neck. At the same time, the church bells rang loudly through the convent, making any conversation impossible for a few moments.
Ann waited patiently before answering Maxine. "They don't usually ring the bells unless it's time for mass or someone important is visiting, so I've been told," explained Ann, as she started her walk down the corridor.
"Is it time for mass?"
"No, mass is much earlier. I guess someone important must be here." Ann picked up the pace, a large smile apparent on her face, her mind working fast to try to find out who could be visiting. "I'm afraid you'll have to come with me."
"Can we take time to drop all of this in my room?" Ann looked from the corner of her eye at Maxine and realized that the actress was still carrying her nightclothes and towels.
They hurried in silence back to the tall woman's bedroom and Ann waited outside while Maxine rushed inside to drop her clothes. Ann took this time to readjust her black robe and smooth out the wrinkles. She suddenly felt extremely tired having spent the night sitting on a chair in Maxine's room. She suppressed a yawn and her eyes watered.
Maxine chose this moment to step out. "Let's go then."
Ann took them downstairs to the end of the corridor, where Maxine had fainted only the night before, and turned right. As they got closer to the chapel the corridor started filling up with a crowd of women in black. They stepped into the small chapel and Ann quickly crossed herself before indicating to Maxine to take a seat in the back row.
Maxine sat next to a large white-marble pillar and gently rested a cheek on it, enjoying the cold emanating from the smooth surface.
The chapel filled up quickly and Maxine felt self-conscious as the only person not wearing a habit. Her green eyes scanned the room, amazed at the number of young novices sitting among the rows. "I didn't realize there were so many of you," she jokingly whispered to Ann who sat in silence next to her.
The young nun smiled briefly and put her finger in front of her mouth, silently signaling to Maxine to be quiet.
Maxine realized that the nuns had their heads down and seemed to be praying. She felt extremely out of place, having never understood devotion and only believing in what she could see. Maxine squirmed in her seat before leaning ever so slightly toward Ann. "Listen, wouldn't it be better if I were to wait for you outside?"
Ann sighed and shook her head negatively, whispering, "You stay put."
The actress was ready to argue when a bell rang and everyone in the chapel stood up suddenly. She followed the lead and stood up. Her height gave her an advantage, as she was able to see over the Sisters' heads and she watched an old man wearing a priest's robes outfit, slowly stepped up the altar.
"Please Sisters, sit down."
A quick rustle of fabric was heard as everyone hurried to sit down and silence established itself again. The priest raised his gray-haired head and looked at everyone in the crowd. He reminded Maxine of a shepherd looking after his flock. He coughed a few times before speaking with a raspy voice.
"Sisters, I've come here today with bad news. " He paused and once more scanned the crowd with his piercing brown eyes. "I am afraid we are being evicted." A gasp ran through the crowd.
"The property we occupy belongs to the city, and they need this space to replace the high school that burned down a few months ago." The priest wiped up some beads of sweat from his forehead and stepped aside to let a short bulky man step in.
"Hello, my name is William Townson." He took a breath and played nervously with his cuffs. "I represent the city and I'm here to answer any questions you may have." A dead silence followed his short speech, and the representative looked like a deer caught in headlights under the sisters' stares. He finally let go of a breath at the sign of a hand raised hand. "Yes, sister?"
Ann stood up quietly and looked straight ahead, staring directly into the short man's eyes. "When will this action take place?" she asked with a strong voice.
"But that's in less then 2 months!" someone exclaimed, followed by turmoil from the rest of the audience that rolled through the chapel like an angry wave.
Mother Clarence stood up and raised her hands to order silence. This simple gesture was enough for the sisters to quiet down.
"Sister Ann, do you have anything else to ask?" asked the older nun.
Ann nodded and Mother Clarence motioned for her to continue.
"What would it take for us to be able to keep our convent?"
William Townson smiled nervously. "You could buy it from the city, but I'm afraid it would take a lot of money."
"What will happen to us then?" asked Ann, her voice slightly on edge.
Maxine, who had been sitting quietly observing the scene, lightly rubbed her forehead in a vain attempt to stop an impending headache. The hype and energy of the previous hour was slowly fading and her body was giving her reminders of its previous abuse. She wiped sweat from her forehead with her sleeve and stood up.
"You," she said forcefully to William Townson, making the crowd of sisters whip around and stare at her. "What's your name again?"
"Townson. William Townson."
Maxine stepped away from her seat and walked to the middle of the aisle, ignoring Ann's worried whispers, asking her to stay in her seat and not to get involved.
"Mr. Townson." She paused and her lips curved into a sarcastic smile. "You come here to a convent to ask representatives of God to please leave because it doesn't suit the city anymore to have them occupy this facility." Maxine shook her head as a mother would shake her head to her child while reprimanding him. "Now you are going to have to come up with a better reason than that. Because you see, I'm here on recovery. No later than yesterday I was high and angry, and trust me you don't want to see me angry...and it would be easy to make me angry since my body is craving at the moment." Maxine walked up to the altar until she was only a few feet away from the young man. "I tell you one thing. You go back to who ever sent you here and you tell them that these people are not going anywhere. Get a price out of them, ask them how much they want for this dump and come back and see me." Maxine turned slowly around. "Party is over," she said, making it clear that she wanted William Townson out.
He picked up his briefcase and quickly exited the chapel. As soon as he stepped out, everyone broke into a very heated discussion, questions and statements were fired all at the same time from all different directions.
Mother Clarence stood up and ordered silence in a very loud and authoritative voice. "Everyone go back to your chores. Miss Johnston and Sister Ann, I would like to see you in my office."
Ann waited for everyone to clear the chapel and walked angrily toward Maxine who was still standing near the altar. "What were you thinking?" she asked angrily.
"I've seen this scenario hundreds of times Sister Ann. They are just trying to scare you away, but legally speaking they can't do anything against you."
"How do you know? You are an actress, not a lawyer. Can't you for once do as you are told? I asked you to stay put and remain quiet, but no, you had to interfere! Why?"
Maxine rubbed her eyes with the back of her hand. "Listen, I'm a drug addict. I can't find a job because I've lost Hollywood's trust. Those pretending to be my friends are just a bunch of hypocrites. I look at myself in the mirror every morning and I wish I could make it all go away and disappear from the surface of the earth." Maxine took a deep breath. "In the past two days you have cared more for me than anyone has in a long time. You have also been honest- no one has dared to tell me off in as long as I can remember. You made me believe that I could break the habit and maybe have a normal life, and I'm not about to throw that away because some clown in a three piece suit shows up. I'll buy the place from the city. I'll make them an offer they can't refuse. Trust me sister, there is one thing I still have in this stinking life and that's money"
Ann looked at the actress. She seemed so fired up, her eyes lit up with more life that she had seen in her since she was brought to the convent. A small smile crept across Ann's face and she grabbed Maxine's arm. "Let's go and see what Mother Clarence wants and take you back to your room. You look as if you are ready to drop."
"I am," answered Maxine quietly, feeling suddenly tired and accepting the young nun's support.
To be continued
copyright(c)malaurie barber 2001
Feeb the bard