A knock on Marcy's door received no answer. Sister Dana slipped inside. Marcy sat at her writing desk, poring over the problem "Papp" had set her. She had dropped the "Mr." an hour before, having found what she believed was the first key move. Since then she had checked and double-checked and triple-checked the alternatives ad nauseam. This had to be the move. It was the only one that forced Black's play. But where was Mate? No matter how airtight each trap appeared, the swarthy King escaped.

"Damn!"

"Marcy!"

The girl jumped.

"Sister Dana! I didn't hear you come in."

"Obviously not. That wasn't a very seemly word."

"No, sorry. But this is driving me bananas. Do you know anything about this game?"

"Afraid not. What's got you so upset?"

"Homework."

"In chess? Aren't your other subjects more important?"

"I finished all of them."

The nun looked down over Marcy's shoulder.

"What do you have to do?"

"Mate the Black King. In two moves. Which isn't as easy as it sounds."

"Why would Julian start you out with such a difficult problem?"

"Just meanness, I suppose."

"Marcy!"

"I'm only kidding. He said he didn't think I'd work it out. But just because of that I'm going to. If it kills me."

"How long have you been at it?"

"Hours!"

"Don't you think it's time to take a break then? You can only concentrate on a thing so long. Come on. Get those clothes off and climb into bed. It's nearly midnight."

She gently pulled Marcy's chair away from the desk.

"Maybe you're right. I'll probably get it all figured out and Friday he'll tell me it's wrong, that one of these pieces can jump in some new stupid way."

"Well, I wouldn't worry about it. It's only a game."

"Not the way Julian plays it—Mr. Papp, I mean."

"He makes you call him 'Mr. Papp'?"

"Unless I solve the problem. Isn't that mean?"

Secretly Sister Dana was pleased at Julian's disfavor. She disliked like him. She also distrusted him—especially around Marcy. Had he not already broken the rules by holding class up in his room? She had left her protest ringing in the ears of her superior (who had said she would attend to it). Had final word been Sister Dana's, the ban would have been promptly reimposed.

What was wrong? Marcy had stopped unbuttoning her blouse. She was standing very still, just looking, waiting. For what? Then it struck the nun; she had not seen Marcy nude in weeks, not totally, not since the bathing incident, for after that the girl had taken charge herself of private needs. The nun drew back. What might have been perceived as a normal adolescent modesty, instead became a stinging accusation. Why was she standing there like that? What could the girl be thinking? How dare her eyes be filled with such reproach! A seething guilt assailed the nun, an all-consuming shame. She flushed. She could not speak. And fearing she could never ever face the girl again, she fled the room.

 

"Good morning...

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