Times Change For Sister Joan – Episode 06

JOAN sighed.

“Do you mean that she’s a bit famous?”

“Yes, my dear, and for a while that may be a bit of a burden for you, but I know you can cope. There will be no publicity where you are and she’ll soon settle down with your friendly sisters. You will treat her no differently from the other nuns.”

“Will this be temporary, Mother?” Joan asked.

“No, Joan, I want her to stay with you permanently,” was the reply. “She will be useful in the kitchen.”

“Very well, Mother.” Joan hoped she didn’t sound unwelcoming.

“There is one other slight problem with which I request your assistance, my dear. There will be another nun. This sister has been somewhat unwell and I would like you to take her for the time being to recuperate in your excellent guest quarters. I have checked and I know that you have no secular guests for a while, so if you could accommodate this sister for a short while we would be very grateful.”

“Of course we will, Mother,” Joan replied. “You know we will do our utmost to help. What exactly is her ailment?”

There was a short silence at the end of the phone.

“I – I cannot discuss this on the telephone, Sister, but I will enclose some notes on the subject in the files I will send. Let us say that she has a condition that requires peace and quiet and a lot of contemplation. She will seek isolation.”

“We’ll do our best, Mother, I promise you,” Joan assured her.

“Next Wednesday, then,” Mother Catherine said. “There will be plenty of time to prepare. I shall phone you in the evening to find out how things have gone. God bless you, my dear.”

Joan put down the phone. There was a busy time coming, just a few days ahead. Now she must prepare Sister Flora for the journey to France. Mother Catherine’s suggestion would ease the way, and maybe Sister Flora wouldn’t be too upset.
The next morning their doctor arrived and declared Sister Flora as fit as a fiddle and more than able to take the trip to France and, much to Flora’s delight, he gave Henry a clean bill of health, too.

Joan lay awake in bed with her eyes still closed. She was aware that it was early morning because she could see the brightness through her eyelids. Last night, as she always did, she had left the curtains parted just a little so that the first rays of light could peep, sunny or dull, through the gap and light up the end of her bed. She opened her eyes and there it was – the bright band of sunshine at her feet.

She threw back the bedclothes and, sitting on the end of the bed, put her feet into her slippers. Glancing at the clock on her bedside table, she saw that in half an hour she must, with her sisters, ready herself to begin the day. This afternoon she would tell Flora of their Mother Superior’s plans for her.

Sister Flora sat on the chair by Joan’s desk, her feet hardly touching the floor. She looked like an elderly child, wide eyed and innocent.

“So you see, Flora, Mother Catherine would be so pleased to see you, as you haven’t been back to France for such a long time. Next Wednesday is the day that the French sisters are coming to collect you and you’ll have a lovely drive back to the Mother House. You’ll be stopping over with some sisters at a convent near the Channel Tunnel so the journey won’t be too tiring.”

Sister Flora swung her feet back and forth as she sat on the chair by Joan’s desk. She turned her head to one side and addressed her guardian angel.

“You won’t mind, will you, Henry?” she said softly. “You can sit beside me all the way. Can’t he, Mother?”

“Of course, dear, he’s never left your side for an instant, has he?” Joan smiled at her.

Flora smiled broadly, showing the endearing gap in her front teeth.

“I must confess,” she said, “I couldn’t always see him, you know. Not when I was a younger nun. It’s only since I’ve got a little older that he takes more care of me, you see? I feel the utmost trust in Henry, you know. Why – when I climbed up into the hayloft with him I know I could have just stepped off the edge and we would both have flown off right out of the door.” She laughed. “That would have surprised you, wouldn’t it? He always takes good care of me, but we didn’t want to risk breaking the teapot. Do you understand?”

“Of course I understand,” Joan replied.

“You always do.” Flora nodded. “Henry says you do a good job.”

Alison Cook