Chapter VIII

Maxine closed the door to Mother Clarence's office and caught up with Ann, who was already half way down the corridor.

"Wait. What was that about?"

Ann looked at Maxine from the corner of her eye but kept on going, head low, arms crossed on her chest, hands covered by her long black sleeves.

"Don't ignore me," said Maxine insistently, grabbing Ann by her robe and forcing her to a stop. "Sorry," she apologized, stepping back a little, aware that her gesture had not been welcomed by the young nun. Maxine passed her hand through her long brown hair and sighed. "Listen, I don't know what happened back there and why you caved in so easily, but I thought you and I were going to be a team. Remember ŽI'm your special case'," she asked, referring to their argument from the day before.

"Miss Johnston," Ann paused for a few seconds and seemed to be suddenly lost in her thoughts. She shook her head and looked at Maxine. "I have been relieved from your case. You'll be in better hands with someone else, trust me. Now if you'll excuse me." Ann turned around and left a stunned Maxine standing behind.

A group of young novices had stopped to watch the confrontation and quickly resumed their walk as soon as Maxine shot them a dark look. The actress stood there, not knowing if she should go back to her room, storm back into Mother Clarence's office, or run after Ann. She rubbed her temples and tried to ignore the chills running down her spine. She silently cursed her brother for leaving her in such a place and with difficulty stepped forward toward the staircase. Her stomach started making flips and the pounding in her head increased. Ignoring everything and everyone around her, Maxine focused on getting back to her room.

The white corridor seemed to have no end. She finally reached her door and with shaky hands turned the knob. In two strides she reached her bed and threw herself on it, closing her eyes and hoping for slumber. She was just beginning to drift off to sleep when the door to her room opened. Maxine barely acknowledged it until a rough voice called "Miss Johnston?" Maxine chose to ignore it, hoping the intruder would go away, but instead a hand shook her by the shoulder strongly. Maxine rolled onto her back, opened her eyes, and found herself staring into a pale face distinguished by dark crow eyebrows and black eyes.

"My name is Sister Candy, I am your new nurse."

"I don't need a nurse," mumbled Maxine from her bed, closing her eyes, wishing for the unwelcome visitor to go away.

"Then call me your new keeper," said the nun with a little sarcasm.

Maxine's eyes shot opened and she sat up suddenly, ignoring the throbbing pain in her head and her flipping stomach. "Oh for Christ's Sake, I'm here on my own free will. This is not a jail."

The nun ignored Maxine's reply and looked around the room. She spotted Maxine's discarded pair of tennis shoes, quickly grabbed them and threw them on her bed. "Put those on, we've got chores to do."

Sister Candy's patient sat up and looked at the nun, bewildered. "I think you've been misinformed. I don't do chores, I'm here because I am a freaking drug addict. Now get lost," spoke Maxine harshly, slowly losing patience.

On the movie sets, the actress had been known for her fast temper and impatience, and she had stood her ground against the most famous directors, refusing to shoot a scene unless she got her way.

"Miss Johnston, in our community everyone works so they can eat. Now you can choose to remain where you are, but I assume you would prefer to be fed during your stay."

Maxine grunted and sat up, tempted to get up and throw the nun out, but the vision of Ann stopped her and the hope that she might be able to see the young nun and convince her change her mind made her get up and slowly put her shoes on.

"I knew you'd see reason. Now put something warm on, we're going to be outside." The nun retreated to the door, took one last look at Maxine to verify that she was being obeyed and stepped out.

Maxine cursed silently, trying to ignore her aching body and the obvious withdrawal symptoms. Her brother hadn't packed a winter jacket, and she was forced to layer her clothes.

Sister Candy looked at Maxine with amusement as she met her outside the bedroom. The actress' upper body looked buffed up by the added layers, making her long well shaped legs seem slightly disproportionate to the rest of her body. The nun hid her smile and motioned for Maxine to follow her.

Maxine had only caught glimpses of the backyard from the inside, and she was surprised to find that past the trees and what in the spring must be the flowerbeds, were fields. "I didn't know this place was a farm," she commented, burying her unprotected hands into her sweat pants' pockets to avoid the bitingly cold wind.

"One hundred and twenty four acres," said Sister Candy simply. The nun wore a long, heavy black cloth coat and a hat over her normal coif. She directed them toward the north side of the house. There a large wooden barn stood, and sounds of animals could be heard coming from the inside. Sister Candy opened the barn door and stepped in. The smell of the unwashed animals made Maxine gag. Sister Candy ignored her, grabbed a large bucket and handed it to Maxine. "Have you ever milked a cow?"

Maxine whispered, "no," trying to get her stomach back under control.

"Today is your lucky day. We usually milk the cows before mass but this morning was an exception. As of today you will be part of the milking crew as one of your chores."

"You've got to be kidding," replied Maxine, looking around the large barn where about fifty cows stood around.

"No. Two other sisters are also responsible for that chore and they already have done their part. Your turn now." Sister Candy grabbed a small stool and sat it beside one of the cows. "Sit down, the lesson is about to begin."

To be continued

copyright(c)malaurie barber 2001

Feeb the bard


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