Times Change For Sister Joan – Episode 52

NONE of us has any idea if what you are doing is immediately dangerous or not,” Joan said. “We must be extremely vigilant, right up to the day that you leave here. Every possibility of your capture by those villains must be considered. We can only conceal you – we cannot physically defend you.”

“I can look after myself!” He bit into a bread roll.

“In this case, Ben,” Joan said, “it would seem that you cannot look after yourself – you’re getting careless.”

Ben coloured and ran his fingers through the unruly hair that desperately needed a cut.

“I’m grateful for what you’re all doing for me,” he said, “of course I am, but I’m fed up with being managed! There just seems to be no end to it. I want all this to be over! I need to be free – I need to contact my folks and I can’t even risk that.” Ben left the table abruptly, his chair scraping across the floor. He tore off the napkin that had been tucked into his T-shirt and threw it down.

“I’m going to my room.” He looked at Joan. “This is your fault – everything would have worked out, but you just had to interfere!” He left the kitchen, slamming the door behind him.

The nuns remained silent. Imelda broke her crusty roll apart and it sounded like an explosion in the quiet room.

“That’s one angry young man,” Sister Clare said softly.

Madeline turned to Joan.

“Do you know something we don’t?”

“I find it difficult to tell you this . . .” Joan began softly.

“I think maybe I know what it is,” Imelda said quietly.

“Ben has love for Sister Emma. I have seen it in his eyes.” Jan spoke out.

“Is that why she’s in France visiting Sister Flora?” Madeline asked.

“Yes,” Joan replied.

“I think most of us guessed,” Imelda said, and the nuns nodded in agreement.

“Is Emma aware of this?” Madeline asked.

“She certainly does not know,” Joan said.

“His music will be more beautiful because of it,” Jan observed. “When God takes one thing He always gives another.”

Joan sighed.

“We must be patient with him,” she said. “Ben is not a child. This is a situation with which he must come to terms. We all have personal battles within ourselves and Ben is no exception. He is kicking against what life has dealt him but he knows he has our support and care – he has the strength to survive.”

“Not if he misses his meals, he won’t,” Sister Clare declared. “I’ll give him an extra helping at supper.”

“So what do we do now?” Imelda asked.

“Well,” Amy said. “When my brother lost his temper like that, Mother used to say we should let him cool off.”

“Then that is exactly what we shall do,” Joan agreed.

Ben spent the afternoon in the chapel “getting the hang” of the old harmonium. Joan winced as she listened and remarked to Clare as she helped prepare supper.

“Bach’s ‘Toccata And Fugue In D Minor’ is a bit ambitious for our old harmonium. I don’t think it can cope with much more of it.”

“You can say that again,” Clare said.

“Why should Sister say it again?” Jan was puzzled.

“Shell the peas – I’ll explain later,” was Clare’s reply.

Thankfully the old harmonium suffered no harm from its moment of classical fame and was none the worse for the experience. Ben accompanied the evening prayers as tenderly as always. He had appeared for supper that evening, having “cooled off” and made his apologies profoundly to them all for his outburst earlier.

At breakfast next morning Imelda observed that Ben seemed happier as he went to attend to old Jack.

The day was hot and humid and Joan took a long sip at her glass of iced water kindly supplied by Sister Clare. She took a deep breath as she began to tackle the day’s paperwork and post.

“I’ll call in later this afternoon as usual,” Postie had said as he handed Joan the day’s mail. “Just in case you’ve any post to go.”

Joan watched as he went down the steps and got into his red van and she gave him a cheery wave as he went.

Alison Cook