Times Change For Sister Joan – Episode 33

JOAN had signed the last cheque and placed it into an envelope to be posted to the local supermarket. It had been a lot more this month due to Sister Jan’s lemon tart and little extras. The tap on the door of her study had been a gentle one and she was surprised when it was Ben who entered.

“Hello.” She smiled. “What can I do for you?”

He came and sat down on the chair in front of her desk and clasped his hands on its polished surface, now more shiny due to the enthusiasm of Sister Jan. He wore his disguise including the veil and the transformation from jeans to habit was amazing.

“Can I have a word, Reverend Mother?” he asked. “It’s about my music.”

Joan smiled.

“Yes, Ben, we were all surprised at how beautifully you played for the Fathers the other night.”

“That’s the trouble,” Ben replied. “I discovered I was very rusty. I haven’t practised for ages and I really need to if I’m to make the grade in my exams when all this is over.”

“What do you suggest?” Joan asked.

“Well, if I could use the piano in the sitting-room for a couple of hours every afternoon I’d be very grateful. I still have my briefcase with all my music in it, including all the modern stuff that I played at the club. Of course, I wouldn’t play any of that – it wouldn’t be proper here.” He looked pleadingly at her. “I wouldn’t want to be a nuisance so say no if you want to.”

“I’m sure we would all be delighted to hear you playing,” Joan answered warmly. “It would brighten our days. I’ll tell Sister Emma to practise the harmonium in the mornings so that you don’t clash.” She smiled. “We wouldn’t want disharmony, would we?”

“Certainly not, Reverend Mother, and I wouldn’t want to upset Sister. Thank you so much,” Ben replied.

Joan looked at him.

“Judging by your outfit, I imagine you’re going out of doors?” she asked.

“Yes, I plan to stroll down to the shore. It’s a lovely day, I have space to think down there and it’ll keep me from getting under your feet, or rather, Sister Clare’s.”

“Oh, Ben, you mustn’t feel like that,” Joan said. “I’m sure Sister Clare can find a few potatoes for you to peel.”

Ben made a face.

“I think that’s what I really mean.” He laughed. “I must look after my pianist’s hands, you know.”

“Off you go, then.” Joan smiled at him. “Have a good quiet time, but don’t be late for lunch. Sister Clare would be most put out.”

“Wouldn’t think of it. I’ll be starving by lunchtime. Wild horses wouldn’t keep me away from Sister’s home-made bread rolls.”

Joan gathered up all the envelopes and got up from her chair. She made her way to the hall where she put the mail on the small table by the front door. Having put stamps on all of them, she knew that the postman would check to see if any mail needed collecting. Dear man, he called every day, even when there were no letters to be delivered to them.

Sister Clare was putting the rolls to rise by the Rayburn and Jan stirred the big pan of celery soup as it simmered on the stove. All was peaceful.

“Where is our guest this morning?” Clare asked. “I haven’t seen him since breakfast time.”

“He usually pops in to beg some of my amaretti,” Jan said. “He enjoys them so. ‘Can I have some maroons,’ he says.” Jan laughed.

Sister Clare sniffed disapproval.

“Macaroons – I don’t know what’s wrong with scones all of a sudden!”

“There is nothing wrong with them,” Jan replied. “It’s just that scones are a little – plain, don’t you think?”

“We’re nuns, remember,” Clare said with a touch of asperity. “Plain has always been good enough for us.”

“Ben has gone for a stroll down to the beach,” Joan informed her sisters.

Alison Cook