Times Change For Sister Joan – Episode 31

THERE was a long silence while the nuns took in all this information. The fire crackled in the hearth and cast dappled light on to the ceiling of the recreation room, the only other illumination being the lamp on top of the piano. Joan suddenly felt a wave of relief, knowing that they were no longer alone in their task, and she was sure that her sisters could feel it, too.

“With your permission I shall make some coffee.” Jan got up from her chair.

“Of course, Sister Jan, that would be very nice. I’m sure we would all appreciate some coffee.” Joan looked around the room and a murmur of approval accompanied her smile.

Jan paused at the door.

“Maybe, Sister Clare, you would help me?”

“Of course I will.” Sister Clare rose to her feet. “And I’m much relieved to think that Father George will come to help us whenever the need arises. Like a knight in shining armour on his Vestment.”

“Vespa,” Jan corrected.

Joan had to suppress a smile as she listened to them making their way to the kitchen. She could hear Clare asking, “Jar or genuine?”

Joan lay in bed that night unable to sleep. Although she felt comforted by the thought that they were not alone, the responsibility of caring for Ben lay heavily on her shoulders. At least Father Anderson’s revelation had made all the sisters realise that this situation was not just an adventure. The work that they were undertaking was more serious than even she had thought. She tossed and turned then put on her bedside light and took up Sister Jan’s cookery book, which was lying beside the bed.

Maybe that would take her mind off the situation for a while and make her sleepy. But the book was not just full of wonderful recipes. It contained stories and facts about Italy, the Italian way of life and also the country’s various regions. Joan began to see why it had become a bestseller.

Now completely wide awake, she got out of bed and went to the window, drawing back the curtains and releasing the catch to open it wide. The fresh night air, sea-scented, bathed her face and ruffled her hair, no longer confined by the headdress. She stretched her arms and gazed out across the garden to the seashore and Old Jack’s meadow.

Out in the bay she could just see the lights of the French yacht which moved gently in the sea swell. She smiled to herself. By morning it would be gone on the outgoing tide with a burden of passengers who, no doubt, would have headaches from the celebrations of the night before. She didn’t resent them anchoring in their bay. They now obviously respected the privacy of the beach.

She almost laughed out loud at the memory of all those scuffled footprints in the sand that were made when Old Jack the donkey had seen them off on that first night. The crew, no doubt, would be back again with yet another stag party. This was the third now and Joan had given up checking with the coastguard as the information was always the same. She almost felt secure in its presence and gave it a silent welcome and a prayer for the weddings to come.

Suddenly she felt chilled by the night air. There were only a few hours left before they rose to dress and go to the chapel. Getting back into bed, she snuggled into her duvet and sleep approached obligingly and softly.

Her thoughts slid back to the cookery book. Gianna Rosella, she thought, what a lovely name and how talented you are. A little hot-headed, admittedly, but I’m so glad you were sent to us.

Alison Cook