Times Change For Sister Joan – Episode 42

BEN applied himself to his music with new enthusiasm. Dressed dutifully in his disguise, he walked on the beach after breakfast every morning, coming back in time for lunch, and then practised the piano during the afternoon. His evenings were spent not with the nuns in their recreation time but upstairs in the guest room at the top of the house, toiling at his course work on the laptop.

He seemed more content but Joan noticed that he was beginning to look pale and had lost weight. Maybe, she thought, he was now studying too hard.

As the early summer weather got warmer, the Stella Maris yacht came more often. Not just at the weekends, but sometimes in the middle of the week, too. Ben reported that he’d seen passengers diving into the water and generally having fun. He was wise enough to refrain from swimming now. Some of the passengers would be bound to have binoculars and cameras.

Old Jack grew accustomed to Ben due to Sister Clare’s vigilance. A bag of scraps was always ready for him in the morning, so the incident of the stone shelter was not repeated. It stood as it always had with the heavy oak door open  in all weathers so that Jack could go in and out as he pleased.

Joan sensed, however, that Ben was growing restless with the passing of each day and worried about the heartache he had confided to her. She prayed that this situation would not last much longer.

Sister Imelda was working on the repair of an old lawnmower for an elderly gentleman who lived nearby. She had a gift for machinery and charged nothing for her services but tackled all kinds of jobs with joy and enthusiasm. Joan went over to the barn where their “Handy Sister” had a small workshop and a large box of what she called her “fixings” near to hand.

“I’ve brought you some tea, Sister.” Joan put the mug down on the workbench. “I guessed you wouldn’t want to leave what you’re doing and come in for it.”

“You’re absolutely right, Sister,” Imelda replied. “I’d have to get all jolly scrubbed up and that takes up precious time. Thank you so much for thinking of me.” Imelda grasped Sister Jan’s pristine white mug with a greasy hand and took a gulp of tea, leaving black fingerprints on its surface.

“Ah. That’s the ticket! Golly! That’ll get me into trouble with Sister Jan.”

“How are you getting on?” Joan surveyed the pieces of lawnmower on the bench.

“Nearly finished,” Imelda declared. “It just needed a bit of a clean and a blob of grease and the blades sharpened a bit. It’s only one of those jolly push-me-pull-me jobs, no motor to bother with. I’m nearly done.” She drank the remaining tea and handed the mug back to Joan. “Give my apologies to Sister Jan, please, and explain that my vocation requires filthy hands on occasion.” She grinned.

“I’m sure Jan will forgive you.” Joan took the mug, carefully avoiding the grease.

Imelda had been a tower of strength and good humour when times had been hard for them and had “fixed” all manner of things, including their ancient car. Now that their lives were financially easier Imelda’s vocation centred on the repair of toasters, lawnmowers and any item that would make life easier for their neighbours in the parish. She even took on the servicing of their people carrier.

“I’ll leave you to get on, then.” Joan turned to leave the barn.

“Could I speak quietly to you, Sister – just for a moment?” Imelda wiped her hands on her apron. “Something’s been bothering me. Can’t quite put a jolly finger on it, but . . .”

“Are you not well, Sister?” Joan was worried.

“Oh! No, not me. It’s just that I’ve noticed that Ben has been quiet lately. He seems a bit under the weather, so to speak. Pale, too. Have you noticed?” Imelda sounded concerned.

“Yes, I have noticed,” Joan replied. “He’s working very hard at his music – maybe too hard.”

“I hear him every day,” Imelda said. “I sit in the chapel and you can hear him quite clearly from in there. The others sometimes join me, he plays so beautifully.”

“He has a God-given talent,” Joan agreed.

“There’s one piece that I don’t recognise,” Imelda went on. “It sounds sad, but beautiful. He goes over and over it, adding a little, taking a little.”

“I think that maybe he has to produce a composition of his own,” Joan said, “for the course he’s taking. But I don’t know for sure.”

“Ah! That’s probably it, then.” Imelda sighed. “He still worries me, though. I could almost believe . . .”

“Believe what?” Joan asked softly.

“That he’s in love,” Imelda replied simply.

Alison Cook