Chapter IX

Maxine wiped the sweat off her eyebrows with the back of her sleeve and sat on a pile of hay. She felt dirty, hungry and exhausted. After milking the cows, she had fed the rest of the animals and helped move a stack of hay. She sat and looked at her work, and smiled to herself. As tired as she felt, a spark of pride shone in her eyes at the sight of the clean barn. She had not felt pride in her work in a very long time and she laughed out loud at the idea that cleaning up a smelly barn could suddenly represent such an accomplishment. She stood up and put away the pitchfork she had been using and walked back toward the convent. The sky was gray, filled with clouds and a few snow flakes had started to fall. She shivered under the cold wind and hurried up into the building, getting in through the back door.

"Are you finished?" asked Sister Candy, popping out of nowhere and making Maxine jump.

"Yes, I am," she said with a tired voice, trying to unbutton her over-shirt with her freezing hands.

Sister Candy repressed a smile and motioned for Maxine to follow her. "You must be hungry."

Maxine followed the nun without argument, realizing that she hadn't eaten anything the whole day and feeling the weakness associated with hunger slowly creeping through her aching body. Sister Candy took her to the kitchen and motioned for her to sit at a large wooden table in the far corner.

The kitchen was rudimentary, containing the bare necessities. To Maxine's surprise, it carried an old early twentieth century feel with its large oven and its wide open fireplace. In the fireplace sat a large black caldron. Sister Candy took a wooden spoon and opened the huge pot's lid, slowly stirring the contents. She then grabbed a bowl from the wooden cupboard and filled it with a thick mixture before pushing it in front of Maxine.

The actress looked at her food with a look of disgust and suspiciously smelled it. Its aroma was appealing, a mix of spices and vegetables. Hunger won out. She grabbed the spoon Sister Candy handed to her and dug into her food happily.

The older nun looked at her patient with a smile on her face. Maybe a little hard work that is all is needed to tame her, she thought while closing the pot and across the table from Maxine.

Maxine finished her bowl and proceeded to devour the piece of cake the nun had placed in front of her. After a few minutes she paused and looked into Sister Candy's eyes. "What now?" she asked sarcastically, feeling the forgotten fatigue come rushing back to settle into her weary bones.

"You are free to do as you please until supper time."

"That's a joke, right?"


Maxine got up and stretched her tired legs. "You mean you are not going to follow me like a puppy?"

"Miss Johnston," said the nun with an exasperated tone, "I believe that you are an adult. You are responsible for your actions. I heard about the bathroom incidentÖdon't get me wrong, I will not tolerate such behavior. But I have things to take care of, and I can't be babysitting you. You could have left days ago if you had really wanted to."

"I was told that there was no phone." Maxine passed her hand through her tangled hair and looked at the older woman.

"There is always a way," answered Sister Candy before walking toward the door. "Dinner is at 6:30. Please be on time."

"Wait," called Maxine, running after the nun. "Am I to eat with everyone?"

"Yes. There is no room service. From now on you will eat your meals with the rest of us. Enjoy your free time." The nun turned around and left Maxine standing in the corridor.

The actress shook her head and slowly made her way back to her room. Once inside she picked up her towel and toilet kit and made her way to the bathroom. The second floor was quiet and Maxine didn't encounter a soul as she strolled slowly through the white corridors. She felt exhausted, but at the same time exhilarated. She had forced her body to the extreme and fought nausea and dizziness the whole day, but as she stood under the warm water, she felt good about herself. She realized that while exhausting herself in the barn she hadn't once thought about alcohol or any other substance.

"Maybe this is the one. The one time I'm not going to screw up," she told her reflection in the mirror. She touched the dark circles under her eyes with hesitant hands and stared at her pale and thin face before brushing her hair quickly, putting on some sweats and putting her hair up into the towel to dry.

Day light had started to fade and the corridor to her bedroom seemed longer and narrower to Maxine when filled with the late afternoon shadows. She acknowledged two nuns walking by, the sight of their uniforms reminding her of Sister Ann. After only a few seconds of hesitation, Maxine dropped her dirty clothes and towel on her bed and decided to go in search of the young nun.

To be continued

copyright(c)malaurie barber 2001

Feeb the bard

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