Sister Zoe, reviewing the salient points of name, address, and phone number, put aside her notes to marvel humbly at the human mind’s resilience. It seemed her patient had, indeed, recovered. Wounds still were present (which only time and love would heal), but the spiritual essence of Melanie Chamberlain had survived. Sister Zoe gave thanks… then added an impassioned prayer that her next decision would not rescind this blessing.

Sister Dana knocked and entered, her features still distorted by her wrath.

"I see you found him."

"I found him all right, skulking in a corner of the library like a criminal!"

"And he refused to come."

"He certainly did!… How did you know?"

"Come over here to me."

She obeyed. Sister Zoe took the upturned face and cradled it in sympathetic palms, smoothing the furrowed brow, coaxing out the tension, stroking, soothing, coddling, until the ugly signs of hatred all but vanished.

"There now, isn't that better? You must try to keep your beauty free from such unsightly masks."

"Yes, Sister."

The wrinkled hands still held her. They felt a blush flood through the younger nun's cheeks. The elder placed a kiss on each and smiled.

"Before we talk of Mr. Papp I want to say how pleased I am about your work with the young Miss Chamberlain."

Having been obsessed with the emotions raised by Julian, Sister Dana failed to notice that Melanie was gone. Now she did—with great concern.

"Where…?"

"I sent her off to get some lunch. She doesn’t remember breakfast."

"Oh no! She isn’t better, then? Totally, I mean?"

"Don’t fret; her memory is quite restored. Just little things still give her trouble. Normal things, though. I’m sure the worst is past. And in large part, she has you to thank."

"I did very little, Sister. Nothing, really."

"Nothing? Don’t be silly. You gave the most therapeutic gift of all, Sister Dana. You gave your love. That’s what sees us through such times. I have watched you very closely, Sister. This has all been quite a trial for you. I even had some doubts about your pulling through. But every time you weakened, I believe Our Lord lent you strength. You have discovered from this what love is, and, maybe more importantly, what it is not. You will learn much more. So, as far as Melanie is concerned, I’m very proud of you."

Were these things true? To her shame the younger nun could only recognize her lapses—all those times her efforts to keep the Faith had failed. She could scarcely believe that she merited anything but censure. And yet there was a reassuring voice inside. She had changed. She had been touched by something good and right and pure.

"Julian, however, is another matter. Come, sit down." They sat close to each other on the couch. "You have not done well with him thus far."

"Because I hate him, Sister. Oh, I know how awful that must sound, but I can’t help it. Julian’s evil."

"He is ill. And you can help it. And you will. The root of what you found to love in Melanie exists in everyone—even in Julian, though I admit it is better hidden. In fact, he has buried it so deeply he makes one doubt it’s really there. But I assure you, Sister, it is. And reaching him is every bit as crucial as it was for Melanie. Do you understand that?"

"Yes, Sister."

"Good… So, with that in mind, tell me what he said."

"I can’t."

"You what?"

"I can’t repeat it."

"His words won’t reflect on you, Sister Dana. Go ahead; you have my permission."

"He said to tell you that, ‘he’ll come when he’s fucking ready.’"

"Oh dear. He did?"

"I’m sorry, Sister. I didn’t want to say it, but you…"

Sister Dana stopped abruptly, thoroughly bewildered. Sister Zoe was laughing. Then, without knowing why, she was laughing, too.

"Those were…?"

"His words exactly, Sister. I’m sorry."

They laughed some more. The old nun finally dried her eyes.

"Well, as I said, it’s buried deeply. Did he have the journal?"

"Not with him. I’m positive he stole it, Sister. Though I can’t imagine why, except he’s such a…"

"Yes?"

"Such a sick person."

"Yes. He is that. He is also much, much more. And it might be wise to keep in mind that Julian—no less than we—has a genuine interest in Melanie’s recovery."

"In her, maybe. Not in her recovery."

"No, I think you are mistaken. I think, in some peculiar way, her health has been the object of his game."

"What game?"

"The chess game based on who could cure the girl’s amnesia first—Julian or I. His mother gave me insight into that. I knew, and yet I didn’t know. Does that make any sense?"

"I couldn’t say, Sister. What are you going to do?"

"He has put me in a difficult position. With this latest bit of impudence, he has challenged my authority. Did you tell him anything about Melanie?"

"No."

"So he doesn’t know… though he might have guessed. Why else would he force this confrontation?"

"You’re asking me?"

"No, I guess I’m asking myself. He is going to have to see the girl."

"Oh, no, Sister! How could you even consider it? What if he does something awful? What if he makes her forget again? Think about Melanie, Sister, please! It isn’t right to risk it, especially for the likes of him. Here, look."

She exposed the contents of her pockets, holding them up for Sister Zoe’s inspection.

"Where on earth…?"

"His room."

"You didn’t! Sister, you know very well, ‘staff do not makes searches of patients’ rooms.’ This is quite a serious offense."

"But you’re not seeing what’s important. He’s depraved, Sister Zoe. Just look. Do you want a person like this to undo all…"

"Sister Dana, enough! It is not up to us to judge. He has had the decency, at least, to keep these private. Would that you had done the same."

But…"

"We are going to step aside and let them meet."

"Sister, no!"

"You are not to interfere."

The young nun knew it was wasted breath to argue any further. Still, she could not help from rendering her opinion.

"I pray I’m wrong, but I think you’re making a terrible mistake."

"Pray I’m right, Sister Dana; it’s more positive. Pray hard. And let us dearly hope our Good Lord hears."

 

The cold bit cruelly...

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