Times Change For Sister Joan – Episode 45

BEN was engrossed in his work up in the guest room at the top of the house when the French Sisters arrived. Emma was sitting on the same chair in the hallway that Flora had occupied while she waited with her sisters to be transported to the Mother House.

“We cannot stay for even one moment of refreshment!” the nun who was the driver for the Mother House declared. “We have to hurry to be in time for the ferry at Dover.”

“You’ll have to put your jolly foot down, then, Sister.” Imelda grinned.

“Do take care,” Joan said. “We want you all to arrive safely.”

“Do not worry, Sister Joan, you shall receive a phone call as soon as we arrive. It will be very late tonight.”

“I don’t mind how late – I shall wait up for the call,” Joan replied.

“I’ve packed some sandwiches and a flask of tea,” Clare said. “Food is too expensive on the boat.”

“And I have a flask of coffee – real, not jar – and some of my torta di polenta, made cheaply with almonds.” Sister Jan handed over a similar package.

“Fancy cake.” Clare sniffed. “Take care now, Sister.” She patted Emma’s hand. “Have a lovely time and give our dear love to Sister Flora.”

Emma smiled.

“We mustn’t forget Henry.”

“Who is this Henry?” Jan was puzzled.

“I’ll tell you while you’re peeling the potatoes later,” Clare said.

As the car drove away down the lane and silence fell again over the old house it was as if nothing had happened at all. But it had and now Joan awaited the consequence of the decision that had been made.

That evening Joan decided to take her quiet time in the study while she waited for the phone call from France. A book would pass the time quickly.

Ben entered the study without knocking and stood in front of her desk.

“Where’s Sister Emma?”

“Do sit down, Ben.” Joan indicated the chair by her desk. “Sister Emma has been called to the Mother House in France.”

“And when was that?” he asked.

“She was collected this afternoon,” Joan answered simply.

“I can’t believe this! You went and told your superior everything!” Ben said furiously.

“I had to, Ben. Something had to be done or you may have put yourself at risk.” She folded her hands on the desktop in order to stop them shaking.

“You did it mighty quick,” he snapped. “She wasn’t at supper and when I asked, Sister Madeline said she had been called elsewhere.”

“Yes, Ben, that is correct,” Joan answered softly. “Mother Catherine thought it best that you stay here at all costs.”

“So I am to stay here after all,” Ben said. He sat down suddenly and ran his hands through his hair. “I didn’t get to say goodbye. Will she be gone long?”

“For as long as it takes for this sorry business to be cleared up and the criminals locked safely away. Then you shall go back to France and be free to live your life and continue your studies,” Joan replied.

“Then will Emma return?” Ben asked quietly.

“After that it will be for Mother Catherine to decide, and Sister Emma will comply with her superior’s decision,” Joan explained.

Ben lowered his head, hiding his eyes from Joan’s gaze.

“I’m sorry, Sister, it’s just that I feel I’ll never see her again. She went so quickly.”

Joan got up from her chair and went to stand beside him. She put a kindly hand on his shoulder.

“My dear Ben,” she said softly. “It isn’t true that love makes things easy, but it does help us make difficult choices.”

Evening prayers had been said in the chapel without Emma at the harmonium. The nuns had retired for the night and Joan had returned to her study to await the call from France.

The phone rang at last.

“Hello, Sister Joan, Stella Maris Convent.”

“I am to tell you that Sister Emma and the sisters who brought her to us have arrived safely,” the caller said.

“Oh, thank you. It’s getting so late I was beginning to be anxious,” Joan confessed.

“Do not worry, Sister. It also is late here, we are one hour ahead of you! Sister Emma has gone straight to bed. She was very tired.”

“Well, thank you so much for phoning so late,” Joan said.

“It was no trouble, Sister, I am on night duty,” came the reply. “Goodbye and God bless.”

Joan put down the receiver with a feeling of utter relief. She suddenly felt very tired indeed.

Alison Cook