Times Change For Sister Joan – Episode 08

JOAN helped Flora to get down from the chair and took her arm to walk her to the car. A large packing case had been placed on the doorstep.

“Is that Henry’s?” Flora asked.

“No,” the sister in charge replied. “That’s Sister Gianna Rosella’s books. I believe Mother Catherine thought you might like them.”

When they got to the car Joan cupped Flora’s little face in both her hands.

“We must say goodbye now.” She felt tears start in her eyes “I just want to say what a dear friend you have been to me – to us.”

Flora gazed up at her.

“It isn’t really goodbye.” She smiled. “We’ll meet again – you know that we will, Mother.”

Joan kissed her forehead.

“I know, my dear.”

Flora turned and faced the open door of the car.

“Come on, Henry,” she said. “Move over, we’ve got a long way to go.”

Joan went to the passenger side to say goodbye and to thank the two nuns.

The sister in the passenger seat smiled at her.

“We will love her just as you do. All will be well.”

The sisters stood on the steps of the Stella Maris and waved farewell to their dear friend until the car was out of sight.
“I thought they may have wanted tea.” Sister Clare sighed. “There’ll be a lot of scones going begging today.” She wiped away a tear. “And by the way, it’ll be the green teapot from now on – I put the brown one in Sister Flora’s suitcase.”

Sitting at her desk in the little study, Joan opened the first of the files. She began with the file of Gianna Rosella Pascharelli. It was everything that Mother Catherine had said on the phone. It would take a lot of contemplation before Sister Gianna Rosella could embrace humility again. She read the file through, and then, closing it, she placed it in the bottom drawer of her desk.

The file of Sister Benedict seemed to contain nothing but one sealed envelope which contained a sheet of closely typed paper. Joan read it through carefully, trying hard to suppress the anxiety she felt on reading the words. She closed the folder and added it to the files in the drawer.

It was some time before she felt calm enough make her way to the kitchen to help Clare. The road ahead was going to be very challenging indeed.

Teatime that afternoon was quiet, with Clare’s predicted over-abundance of scones. Mr Murray from the farm next door had given them a preserving jar full of cream from his dairy.

“Surplus to my requirements,” he always said when he presented a gift. Clare had whipped it up to mouth-watering perfection and it lay piped atop the strawberry jam on the scones. The teapot, in its red knitted cosy, looked almost the same, except for the green spout. The silence around the table was broken by the saying of grace. Clare poured the tea.

“May I ask?” Sister Gianna Rosella spoke softly.

“Yes, Sister – what is it?” Joan smiled at their new nun.

“What are these things?” She indicated the scones.

There was a shocked silence.

“Sure, they’re scones!” Sister Clare said.

“Is it sweet or savoury?”

“They’re sweet, of course.” Clare sounded offended. “My own strawberry jam and fresh cream from the farm next door.”

“I am sorry,” the new nun apologised. “I thought they were smoked salmon and mayonnaise.”

“I can’t believe it!” Clare exclaimed. “There they are, looking like scones and nothing else! Salmon and mayonnaise indeed!” Her cheeks glowed red. ”

“I’m so sorry.” Gianna’s cheeks glowed, too, and enhanced her beautiful colouring. “I have never tasted such a thing as scones.”

Clare’s expression softened.

“Oh, you poor soul – I suppose you haven’t, being Italian and all.”

By now the nuns were rocking with mirth.

“Oh, my goodness.” Sister Emma grinned. “Wouldn’t Sister Flora have laughed at this.”

“Do try one,” Imelda said kindly. “Clare’s jolly scones are an experience not to be missed.”

Gianna reached for a scone.

The nuns watched as she swallowed the first mouthful. She smiled at Clare and bowed her head towards her.

“I see, Sister, that I have something to learn,” she said graciously. “I very much like this jolly scone.”

Joan could see by the expression on Clare’s face that the remark on Gianna’s arrival about “improving the kitchen” was completely forgiven.

Alison Cook