Inside the cloistered walls running was against the rules, along with talking in a loud voice. It didn’t matter since she had no desire to do either now. A sense of foreboding pressed down on her shoulders. Her already sedate pace slowed more. A desire to escape back to the forest glen tugged at her. Back underneath the trees, she felt safe and welcome.
Years of obedience kept her feet moving forward despite her desire to do otherwise. The sisters kept her out of Christian charity. They fed, clothed her, and even educated her, a luxury for many of her gender. All she ever read were the scriptures, but even those were limited for fear she might tear or soil the delicate pages. Sister Gabriella once spoke of a wonderful place called a library full of books, but it existed outside of the walls. What would it be like to read into the late evening hours? The possibility distracted her a little from the upcoming meeting. No books would come inside the convent walls. Even if they did, reading would require an extravagant use of lamp fuel.
Once she’d picked up a shiny scrap of metal on her unsupervised walks outside. The scrap was smaller than her fist. When she held it up to her face; she could see one eye staring back at her and the bridge of her nose. It fascinated her since the sisters didn’t look at their own reflections to prevent the sin of vanity. No mirrors existed anywhere. Meara had never ever seen her face, except for that one wide, unblinking eye.
The scrap would have caused trouble if found in her tiny cell of a room, but it vanished mysteriously, although she suspected Sister Gabriella. The woman gently guided her more with actions than words. Often, she felt the young sister was her only true friend.
A large door with an arch at the top separated her from Mother Superior and whatever edict she would issue. Someone as low as she never received too much of the Holy Mother’s time. When she did, it was never good. The last time she’d entered the hallowed room was in reference to her habit of whistling. Her poor efforts were to mimic the birds, perhaps even call them to her side. Someone heard her while gardening and reported it. After doing a three-day indulgence that included crawling to the chapel, which made her knees bloody, she never whistled again inside the convent walls. Mother Superior believed whistling kept company with the sins of vanity and pride. After all, it drew attention to oneself. Her eyes narrowed as she searched her memory for any recent whistling. None, she could recall.
Her raised fist hung in the air before hitting the prescribed three knocks of medium force. The door swung open before she had mentally prepared herself for the ordeal. No matter what the infraction levied against her, she couldn’t show any emotion. Any tears, pleading or remonstrations fell under the sin of pride, and possibility falsehood.
The tall robed figure of Mother Superior filled most of the doorway, but the sliver of a pants leg of a seated man drew her eyes more than the frowning matron did.
“Mary, you are late.”
The name always grated, giving her a mental jar strong enough to bring her back to the current situation. Her gaze dropped to the floor. “Sorry Mother, I came as soon as Sister Gabriella told me.” She sucked in her bottom lip wondering if Gabriella had been searching long. It was not her intention to transfer blame to the kind sister.
Mother Superior snorted her belief, but rather than say anything else, she stepped aside and gestured for her to enter.
Meara’s shoe stuck to the stone floor as if she’d stepped in spilt honey. Both men stood and turned curious gazes her way. Her eyes traveled over them both, memorizing their features and their strange clothes. Later, when she was alone in her cell, she’d reexamine them in her mind.
A flash of white teeth showed in one man’s beard. A smile, she recognized it without being told, although smiles were rare inside the walls. It was a sign of frivolity, a lightheartedness that did not become a bride of Christ.
Even though the sisters accepted that their God took male form, they seldom spoke of the male gender at all. This other sex could roam free outside the walls without worrying about falling prey to the temptations of the world. How could this be?
“Make haste, Mary.” Mother Superior slapped her hands together, which bespoke her irritation.
Meara shook off her initial fear and strode into the room, stopping short of the door. The smiling man’s expression changed as he sent a sharp look at the Mother Superior.
“You told me her name was Meara.”
Her heart leapt. Outside of Sister Gabriella whispering her name when she asked for details about her mother, she’d never ever heard another person say it. Mentally, she called herself Meara because she didn’t want to lose that slender wire that connected her to her mother.
The woman swung around so fast that her black veil fluttered from the motion. Even though, she couldn’t see her expression Meara knew it would be stern enough to cause trembling in the most stalwart of the sisters. The man did not seem intimidated. Strange.
“Meara is a heathen name. Even though her mother chose to name her Meara. I chose the name of Mary to inspire the child who came from a sinful union.”