nuns, both clad in heavy woolen sweaters, walked side by side.
Their breath hung visibly in the chilly autumn air. They had
done one turn of the frost-dusted grounds in silence. On this,
their second, they spoke.
"I've talked to Julian. I believe his
objection to the rec. hall is legitimate. It does tend to be
"You haven't given in to him, I hope!"
"I question your choice of words, Sister
Dana, but I have agreed to let him hold his classes in his
"Chaperoned, of course."
"Oh… He agreed to that?"
"Why wouldn't he?"
She ignored the question.
"Julian suggested Sister Clara."
"He would. Of course. The next best thing to
being by themselves."
The old nun's dubious look bade her explain.
"She'll fall asleep! You know it's true.
She's always nodding off. I don't mean to be unkind but, with
Sister Clara on guard, Marcy just isn't safe."
"Safe? From what?"
"From him, of course. He may look innocent to
you, but it's crystal-clear to me what's on his mind."
"Oh, come now, Sister Zoe, don't be naïve. Do
I have to spell it out for you?"
"I think you had better."
"S-E-X, Sister. Sex is all he's after.
Any fool can see that." She saw that her zeal had carried her
too far. "I'm sorry, Sister. Really, I apologize… But don't you
see how obvious it is?"
"I guess I don't. You haven't mentioned this
in any of your reports. Unless you've omitted something?"
"Oh, no. It's only a feeling."
"Well, perhaps you'd be less worried if the
job of chaperon were yours."
At first this prospect frightened Sister
Dana. She had yet to reconcile herself to Marcy. It was too
soon. She was not ready. Then, suddenly, the situation looked
ideal! How better to inaugurate the protective role she had
vowed to play?
"That is, Sister, if you have the time."
"Two to three on Tuesdays and Fridays?"
"I believe that's right."
"I think I can… Yes, I'm sure. It won't be
"Then you don't mind?"
"No. Well, yes. I mean, most likely it'll be
a bore. Unless I learn the silly game myself. You don't suppose
he'd teach us both?"
"No, I think not. Marcy is an exception as it
is, I understand. Julian has never taught. His mother was quite
shocked the day I told her."
"You called her?"
"She called me—and has, every other day, for
weeks. I tried to discourage her early on, gently, but to no
avail. Now I think, without the frequent contact, her fear that
she has abandoned Julian would grow to be intolerable. I was so
grateful the other day to have something new to tell her, I'm
afraid I sort of blurted it out. There was a long silence on the
line—which held I know not what—followed by her effusive thanks
for all that we were doing for her son, the gist of which made
plain that Julian never before had considered taking on a
student, had, in fact, disparaged the idea."
"You see? I told you he had something else in
"We disagree, however, on what that is."
"Okay, what do you believe he's up
"As I said, I think there are many things
involved, not the least of which is Julian's need to justify his
existence. His suicide attempts were in response to a specific
crisis. That crisis is over, leaving him to confront the
situation; one his fears have him convinced is a hopeless
void—one he now must fill. Undertaking Marcy as a project or a
challenge is a life-sustaining enterprise for Julian. So,
whether you judge his conscious motives honorable or otherwise,
I trust you will keep their vital source in mind. Watch, protect
if necessary, but do not interfere."
The young nun knew debate was closed, that
"policy" had been made.
"Yes, Sister. Should I continue my reports?"
"Once weekly should be sufficient."
"Unless, of course, you note some telling
They parted, walking off to their respective