Times Change For Sister Joan – Episode 09

WARMTH came back into the room and around the big table as they shared their memories of Flora with their new nun, and for that little while it almost seemed that Flora was still with them. Joan realised that Flora had become a never-to-be-forgotten part of all of them. She was a little sad that Sister Benedict, who had been provided with tea and scones upstairs, could not join in.

Tea over, the nuns went about the last duties of the day. Sister Gianna helped with the dishes and the preparation for a later supper.

That evening at bedtime, as Joan opened her curtains to let in the moonlight, she looked out at the old apple tree in the garden with the barrel seat underneath.

She smiled.

“We’re going to miss you, Flora, very much,” she whispered. “And you, too, Henry.”

After the excitement and worry of the day before, which had been taken up by the arrival of the two new nuns and the departure of Sister Flora, Joan was sure she would have a good night’s sleep. However, she tossed, turned and slept fitfully, until in exasperation she got out of bed and went to open the window. Maybe a breath of fresh air would do the trick. After all, there was no law that said one had to be asleep all night. The extra waking time could be put to good use in thought about how to usefully employ Gianna Rosella and cope with Sister Benedict’s need for solitude.

All was still in the early summer night. A vixen called somewhere down on the sea shore. As she looked out into the garden, Joan noticed a shaft of light coming from the guest room upstairs at the top of the house. It was obvious that Sister Benedict was not sleeping, either.

Soon Joan must have a quiet interview with this shy arrival at the convent. There were urgent and important things in the brief page of information that had arrived with this quiet sister that would need to be discussed, but Joan felt it necessary to let her settle in for a couple of days. There would be time after that to address a problem which Joan would have to share with Sister Madeline. The care of this particular nun would take diplomacy and tact and Joan would have to handle this new challenge with great care. She knew how to be gentle but she also knew that she would have to be firm.

At Joan’s request, Sister Imelda had placed the carton which contained Gianna Rosella’s books in her room. It lay unopened under the window. Bending down, she pulled back the broad seal of brown parcel tape and took out a book. Smiling, she sat down on the edge by the bedside table and switched on the light.

Her bedside lamp revealed a bright and colourful cover, shiny and expensively produced. Across the photograph of a mouth-watering bowl of pasta were the words A TASTE OF ITALY.

Oh, my word, Joan thought as she turned the pages. How will Clare take this? Mother Catherine had clearly been right to suggest that Gianna would be useful in the kitchen, but would there be a clash between Irish stew and tagliatelle?

Alison Cook