Times Change For Sister Joan – Episode 44

FROM her study Joan could hear the breakfast dishes being clattered in the sink as Sisters Jan and Clare tackled the first chore of the day. She picked up the telephone receiver and pressed the numbers of the Mother House in France.

“Good morning – this is Sister Joan, Stella Maris UK. Can you please put me through to the Mother Superior?”

“Bonjour, Sister Joan – please wait.”

“Thank you.”

Presently Mother Catherine’s voice came down the line.

“Good morning, Sister, how nice of you to call. Are you well?”

“Yes, thank you, Mother but I have something to tell you,” Joan replied.

She took her time and quietly told her superior everything, including her thoughts, fears and concern for Emma’s spiritual wellbeing and Ben’s genuine heartache.

“I don’t know what to do,” she ended sadly. “I just had to come to you, Mother.”

“You have acted wisely,” Mother Catherine replied. “One thing is sure, the future of this young man and his safety is entirely in our hands. No sacrifice is too great to attain these things. He has recovered well in your care but we must remember that he is a young, healthy man who has been given kindness. Some men in long-term hospital care fall in love with their nurse.”

Joan heard a sigh all the way from France.

“Hopefully these feelings for Emma will pass when life becomes normal for him again. It would not be unusual for him to have – how do you call it – a crush?” Mother Catherine paused. “There is only one answer, Sister, to this particular problem.”

“Tell me, Mother.”

“I must make arrangements for Sister Emma to be removed immediately,” Mother Catherine replied. “On no account must Benedict Pearson be taken from your care. It would be far too dangerous.”

“But, Mother – Emma – you can’t . . .” Joan stammered.

There was a short but meaningful silence from France.

Joan struggled to find words.

“Two of our sisters are at this moment at the convent near Dover,” Mother Catherine continued. “They have brought a new sister to the nuns there. They will come to collect Emma and bring her here to us.”

Joan was stunned. The removal of Ben to another safe house was the solution that she had expected.

“When will they come?” she asked.

“I shall make contact with the sisters now. They will collect Sister Emma tomorrow. See that she is ready.”

“She is to leave as soon as that!” Joan was shocked. “What shall I tell her – and the others?”

“Let us say that Sister Flora would be delighted to see her again and that her time with us would be beneficial,” Mother Catherine replied. “There is no need to go into detail.”

“Very well, Mother,” Joan said. “I shall see that Emma is ready.”

“Well done, Sister. We hope that this whole affair will soon be over. The police tell me that the investigation is nearing an end. But I must warn you that I may decide to keep Emma here indefinitely. I have a replacement nun who would benefit from being with you. Goodbye, and God bless you, Sister.”

“Goodbye, Mother Superior.” Joan put down the receiver.

I don’t want a replacement, she thought. I don’t want them to keep Emma.

Looking out of her study window at the old apple tree and the kitchen garden, Joan noticed Ben, dutifully dressed in his disguise, making his way to the gate that opened into the path to the beach. He carried a paper bag of scraps for Jack, although the old donkey was so accustomed to him now that the scraps were hardly necessary.

“Better safe than sorry,” Sister Clare had insisted.

Emma was busy at the ironing board on the landing next to the big airing cupboard, tackling a large bundle of bed linen and various items of clothing.

Joan mounted the stairs and stood watching her for a while without being noticed.

Emma turned and smiled.

“I really enjoy ironing,” she said. “It gives me time to meditate, although I mostly think of music. Even when there’s nothing much in my head to think about there’s always a tune there.”

“I have a surprise for you,” Joan said. “Mother Catherine has asked for you to go to the Mother House. Sister Flora would benefit from a visit. A familiar face would bring her much joy.”

“Go to France? When?” Emma put down the iron on its stand.

“The French Sisters will collect you tomorrow afternoon,” Joan replied.

“So soon – how exciting! I’ll finish the ironing quickly and pack my suitcase. There isn’t much to take.” She smiled. “When shall I be back?”

“That is for Mother Catherine to decide,” Joan answered. “I shall take your passport from the file for you.”

“Of course,” Emma said. “It will be nice to see Flora again. How kind of Mother Catherine to think of it.”


Alison Cook