far, no one had noticed. Marcy had checked the mirror after each
of her morning classes to verify that her hair was really there.
It was. So why was everyone so blind? True, she had not seen
Sister Zoe or Sister Dana yet, but there were others who might
have marked the change. Maybe people failed to look at those
labeled "different." Maybe people's habit of pretending (through
politeness, or compassion, or their own embarrassment) that
everything—even hairlessness—was normal, prevented them from
After her initial disappointment, Marcy had
begun to watch. Sure enough the eyes she had met were, more
often than not, averted—at least when she tried to engage them.
Those with whom she had stopped to talk would look in her
direction, but their vision somehow failed to take her in. She
had to laugh at all the times she had fretted over stares.
People gawk, but now she knew they seldom see.
So, by the time she arrived for chess class,
Marcy had renounced her expectations.
His door was open. Julian waited at the
table. The problem he had assigned her was set on the board. He
stood this time as Marcy entered.
"Good afternoon, Mr. Papp."
He smiled (that nasty smirk of his).
She hated that she had failed to solve the
problem (almost as much as admitting it to him).
"I'm sure you did."
His condescension galled her even more. She
took her seat.
He pointed head-ward.
"Been watering up there?"
She blushed crimson—not from bashfulness, but
from joy. He had noticed! Somebody had noticed! For that one
minute, she loved him with all her heart. She felt he was
sincerely glad for her—despite the wryness of his quip—because
his second smile was not a smirk at all. It was warm and
friendly and therefore worthy of sharing this remarkable event.
Huffing and puffing, Sister Dana hurriedly
marched in. Julian resumed his seat.
"Sister! What are you doing here?"
The nun looked around self-consciously. Both
chairs being taken, there was nowhere left to sit except the
bed. She held her ground.
"Didn't he tell you?"
"Tell me what?"
"She's to be your bodyguard whenever you
cross the threshold of my lair. Welcome, Ms. Dana, pull up a
chair—sounds rather lyric—oh, but there isn't a spare. The bed,
my bed, my lonely bed, beckons if you dare."
"I didn't come here to be ridiculed, Julian."
Noting the stress in Marcy's face, Julian
changed his tone.
"Well, now that we're all reacquainted, won't
you please sit down?"
The room had been rearranged to put as much
space as was possible between the bed and chairs.
Having little choice, Sister Dana took the
Satisfied (for the moment) with the relative
positions, Julian proceeded with his lesson. He asked that Marcy
show him how she had worked toward the solution, checking the
precision of her moves. She knew the pieces well enough. "En
passant" was what she had forgotten. He reviewed it for her,
then left the problem unsolved.
"But what's the answer?"
"You'll get it now. But do it later."
"My name, you mean?"
"Sure, same deal."
They moved on to various mating exercises
whereby Marcy was to trap his King with hers plus one or two
other pieces. She thought these drills great fun and lost
herself to the rigors of the chase,
Meanwhile Sister Dana brooded. Julian's
reformed behavior seemingly neutralized her role, made it look
superfluous, even silly. Her presence was an imposition—or so
she felt it was perceived. And her gnawing pain of isolation was
worsened by the exclusivity of Marcy's concentration.
As the nun observed, the afternoon sun poured
in through the bedroom window, framing the couple, enshrining
their heads in a pair of fuzzy halos.
Marcy's head! The nun almost cried out. Her
skin flushed hot, yet at the same time she felt cold. The time
to spontaneously express her joy for Marcy quickly lapsed. Now
the words were paralyzed (if, indeed, they had ever formed).
Sister Zoe. She must report to Sister Zoe.
Unsteadily the young nun found her feet.
He moved away.
He moved again.
Again he eluded her.
Marcy puffed out her cheeks in consternation.
"I don't have enough material."
She cocked her head sideways and threw him a
"Then why have you let me chase you all over
the place, knowing I couldn't mate you?"
"Because I listed for you on Tuesday the
minimum forces needed for a win. Had you recalled, you would
have known ten minutes ago that two Knights and a King were
"You expect me to remember everything."
"That's my goal."
"I think that's unfair. Besides, I was
nervous last time."
"What do you mean, 'Oh'? Weren't you?"
"Well, I was. And I don't remember good when
"You're doing all right—better than I
"Because you thought I was stupid."
"I denied that before, I deny it again."
"Don't underestimate me, Mr. Papp. If you
teach me 'well,' I'll beat you at this game some day."
"You'll never beat me, Marcy."
He said it as simply and with as much
conviction as one might assert that the sky was blue.
She looked at his face, toward his eyes,
trying to pierce the darkness that concealed them.
"Why do you wear those?"
"My eyes are hypersensitive to the light."
"You wear them at night, too."
"I wear them as night, too."
"Who's the Miniature Man?"
With this question her eyes refocused—and in
the polished black of his impenetrable lenses she saw her own
reflection. It gave her an odd feeling, a sort of hum at the
base of her skull, a deep vibration that was at once pleasurable
and frightening. For a moment she let herself indulge it. Its
lulling frequency seemed to open an unfamiliar channel through
which reverberated a sort of tingly drone along with his
question. Who was the Miniature Man? By a wrenching dint
of will, she broke the spell.
"I don't think I want to tell you."
"I don't think you know."
He was right; she did not. Perhaps she did
not want to know, not yet. But what could Julian know about it?
She considered his presumptuousness rather insulting.
"Let's stick to chess."
"It wasn't I who changed the subject."
"Well it certainly wasn't…"
He indicated his glasses.
"Oh, it was… Sorry." She looked away. "Hey,
where's Sister Dana? I forgot she was even here."
"Thus is no longer—quite a knack you have."
"Where do you suppose she went?"
"To take a leak, perhaps. Or don't nuns pee?"
She glowered at him.
"I don't blame her for leaving. You weren't
very nice to her."
"Why should I be nice to the opposition's
"The what? Whose?"
"Why do you call her that?"
"Oh, just a token of disrespect. While
feminism hasn't cracked the 'God-fearing' mentalities, one does
one's best to promulgate the cause."
Marcy was unsure if he was kidding or
"But Sister Zoe is a nun."
"And that's her problem. When ultimately
women see that sexism infests religion, they'll move to halt the
This was a bit abstruse for Marcy, although
she caught his drift.
"I don't understand then what you're doing
here. At St. Francis, I mean."
"Ask my mother."
"She made you come?"
"Let's say she pressed a dutiful advantage. I
wasn't thinking very clearly at the time. And when one shows
weakness, the initiative is quickly seized by others—thus
depositing me here."
"You mean against your will?"
The truth was, no one at St. Francis was
under obligation to remain (except for Marcy, whose status as a
minor raised a legal issue). This noncompulsory policy afforded
the Order considerable leeway in such things as acceptance of
its patients, methods of their treatment, and the circumstances
determining their release. Belligerents and malcontents were
seldom tolerated. If such predispositions were detected on
admission, or if they surfaced later, a patient was rejected or
removed. Exceptions could be made, of course, and were. But
contrary behaviors had to improve (improve significantly) if
their authors hoped to guarantee their stay. And if a patient
left without permission, reentry was forever barred. It was
generally understood, then, that one responded to treatment
positively at St. Francis, or one sought treatment elsewhere.
Julian was readily aware of this contingency
and knew his abusive attitude, his contempt for regulations, and
his outspoken irreverence for the nuns put him at risk. He
likewise was aware the sanitarium did have benefits to offer.
Tangibly, the natural setting, the peaceful isolation, the
relative anonymity he enjoyed, were all considerations.
Intangibly (and thus harder to articulate), a vague impression
had somewhere dawned that things—fundamentally significant
things—were in the offing.
He looked intently at the girl before him:
fuzzy crown, lively eyes, fair skin tones, lollipop
lips—intelligent features wed in a conspiracy of youth and
guilelessness. No, it was not against his will that he was here,
not any longer.
"Does your mother visit you?"
"Really? That doesn't sound right. The other
"I forbade her."
"Oh… Don't you get along?"
"My mother suffers from the lifelong delusion
that the two of us get along famously. Nothing short of
matricide would change her mind. I, on the other hand, view our
present arrangement—'pals' with a countrywide buffer—as
immeasurably agreeable. Which isn't to say I dislike the woman.
She's supported me unselfishly from the day I was born, making,
I might add, a most remarkable transition from parent to patron.
Had she not kept me sheltered from a mercenary world, my talent
never would have been developed. Owing her that, I owe her
everything. But gratitude, at times, deserves a rest."
Marcy paused to take this in, for sometimes
his vocabulary stumped her. She wondered at understanding him at
all. And yet she did. Despite the unfamiliar words, the
convoluted sentences, despite her slight suspicion that he
wanted to confuse her, she nonetheless believed she
understood him. And she appreciated the fact the he did not talk
down to her.
"What about your father?"
"Officially a Missing Person. What about
She tried to think. Who were her parents? Why
did they have no names, no faces? How could "mother," "father,"
"sister," "brother" be empty terms?
Her eyes grown wide, she gaped at Julian, his
glasses again twin mirrors. 'No, not dead,' she mouthed the
words. But what then?
No answers came. Only Marcy's tears—as much
from frustration as from despair.
His command so startled her she ceased
"What gives you the right to yell at me?"
"Only your self-pity. It's maudlin. Your
faulty memory is what's made you an orphan. Jar that and I'm
sure you'll find a pair of doting parents waiting."
"You think so? You really do?"
"Of course. Do you think you were brought
here by the stork, dropped down from its beak all bald and
bawling, a helpless babe at age 'fourteen'? Grow up, kid. Your
"But I honestly don't remember certain
"Then how is it my fault?"
"I said 'faulty memory,' not that the
forgetting was your fault."
"I've tried remembering."
He looked unimpressed.
"I have! Sister Zoe even hypnotized me."
"And didn't get past your Miniature Man."
Marcy suddenly was angry.
"How do you know? What do you know about
anything anyway? If Sister can't make me remember, you
sure won't be able to."
"Not against your will."
She was almost shouting at him. He waited,
allowing her to grasp the irony in what she had just let slip.
But she was much too busy hating him to stop and think of
anything beyond retaliation. A flash of intuition came. It
galvanized Marcy's hand. With a well-aimed flick she toppled
Neither made a move.
Marcy sensed his awful, unseen eyes bore into
her. His face remained unnervingly composed. Then, with a motion
made so slowly she felt it as a mortal threat, Julian reached
and righted the fallen King.
"Is she aware?...
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