My hair won't grow. Not anywhere—on my arms, my legs, or any of the normal places. Worst is my head. I don't think I minded being bald until now. But I saw people stare at me this morning. They've probably been staring all along and I just haven't noticed. I know now, though. I look funny. I've been standing in front of the mirror for almost an hour trying to decide what to do. It is now 11:52 in the A.M. Monday, September 22nd.

12:30 in the P.M. This is the same day. I just got back. I went out with a scarf on to see if people still stared. I couldn't tell for sure. When you're looking to see if people are looking at you, they don't look at you the same. I'm going to try again without the scarf.

Same day at 1:15 P.M. I walked all the way to the chapel and back, then right through the cafeteria. Some people stared, some didn't. I suppose the ones who didn't are used to seeing me—though I didn't recognize any of them. I thought of getting a wig, but where? Then I thought I could wear a wimple. Sister Dana would probably lend me one of hers. I've decided to ask her when she comes this afternoon.

 

 

Sister Dana's visits to Marcy had come to be a regular part of their days. The feelings of attraction the nun felt for the girl had been forcibly suppressed. "Therapy" was the banner she waved above the growing friendship. And her daily reports on Marcy's progress corroborated this claim. At twenty-six, Sister Dana was considerably older than her charge, and yet the nun's cloistered life made the gap seem far less wide.

"Good afternoon."

"Good afternoon, Sister."

"I was told you've already been out today—twice, in fact."

The girl had been unaccustomed to venturing out alone, and Sister Dana was anxious about the change.

"I'm bald."

Marcy's bluntness precluded any tiptoeing around the subject.

"So you are."

"All over."

At this the Sister couldn't help a blush—though she recovered somewhat with her answer.

"And have been since you came."

"Why?"

This brand of bold questioning was new as well. It took Sister Dana a little by surprise.

"We don't really know. That is, we don't know why your hair hasn't grown back in."

Immediately she bit her tongue, for her answer implied that Marcy had once had hair, and that the reason she didn't anymore was known. (All information about Marcy's past is to come exclusively from Marcy. Sister Zoe had been quite clear on that point.) She prayed the girl had missed her subtle slip.

"Could I try on your wimple?"

A keener sense of panic seized the nun. Its source was not the possible irreverence involved, but rather Sister Dana's terror at having someone learn her secret, her precious, precious secret. And yet that very prospect sent a thrilling shiver up her spine.

Why shouldn't she share her sacrifice with Marcy?

With a wildly beating heart the young nun weighed the pros and cons.

Then, resolutely, she pulled the wimple from her freshly shaven head.

"You must promise me you will never tell another living soul. Do you promise, Marcy?"

Marcy gaped in disbelief, then solemnly nodded. She couldn't know, of course, that none of the other nuns were similarly shaved, that Sister Dana's exaggerated act had been a private penance. But intuition told her that the symbol was of great importance.

The young nun, cheeks still flushed from boldness, led her confidant to the mirror where she reverently placed her wimple on Marcy's head.

"This, too, must be our secret. Promise?"

"But why?"

"It is forbidden."

They looked at their reflections, a conspiratorial kinship there aglow.

"You'd make a very pretty nun."

"You think so? Really?"

"Yes. You're lovely."

On impulse Sister Dana pressed a kiss to Marcy's cheek. The girl's brow darkened. The nun drew back, horribly regretting her indiscretion. But the shadow passed.

"Why is it forbidden?"

"Because a Sister's raiment can only be conferred by God."

"You mean God gave this to you?"

"In a way."

Marcy lifted off the wimple deferentially.

"Have I sinned then?"

"Only a little. But don't worry. I'll say ten Our Fathers on your behalf and the sacrilege will be forgiven."

Amused by Marcy's innocent distress, Sister Dana failed to note the seriousness with which these last few words were taken.

 

On Sunday...

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