The Sisters silently prepared for their morning. Sr. Mary Gerard said in her mind the correct prayer for each part of her garment as she put it on. Her lips never moved, though — the Grand Silence didn’t end until morning prayer. She washed up and brushed her teeth in the basin in her room. Her stomach growled, but she didn’t think it was from hunger. She just had one of those creepy feelings. She tried not to think about it. Sr. Evangeline said that sort of thing was the same as superstition and magic and witchcraft, and certainly not appropriate for a Catholic — especially a nun. Why, it was almost enough for God to forget she was a nun and send her to hell for eternity when she died. Sr. Evangeline was such a peach to be around!
What a nasty woman! She reminded Sr. Mary Gerard so much of the woman in that poem about St. Peter at the Gate, where the woman goes on and on about her husband’s faults, but she herself is perfect. Sr. Mary Gerard stifled a sneeze. There was no way she was going to get sick! That would mean that Sr. Evangeline would be her substitute teacher in the classroom!
The last time that happened, Sr. Evangeline got practically nothing accomplished and Sr. Mary Gerard’s class was behind for days. And what were they so busy learning instead? Eventually, her students reported that they had lessons on the proper way to sit up straight, the proper way to use and store a handkerchief, the proper way to hold a pen, the proper angle of the writing tablet on the table, and the proper tone of voice for recitations. Poor kids! After that, Sr. Mary Gerard made sure that she was never sick unless Sr. Evangeline was already booked to sub in someone else’s classroom!
Sighing, Sr. Mary Gerard made her bed, left her room, and went to the chapel. Sr. Margaret James was already there, silently praying the rosary. Sr. Mary Gerard was surprised not to see Sr. Evangeline already in her spot; being first to chapel increased her feelings of superiority over everyone else. Still honoring the Grand Silence, Sr. Evangeline began her own prayers until the rest of the Sisters arrived.
Once everyone was in her place — that is, everyone except Sr. Evangeline, Morning Prayer began. Sr. Mary Gerard considered Morning Prayer to be what she managed to accomplish before everyone else arrived. To her, what they called Morning Prayer was simply synchronized reading. It certainly didn’t bring her any closer to God, and she couldn’t imagine how anyone could have thought this sort of thing was a good idea. Of course, she suspected that in a lifestyle where individuality was quashed, that would include individual prayers. That was for separate times, to be squeezed into her day.
After Morning Prayer, they were allowed to speak, but a moment of silence remained as everyone looked at Sr. Evangeline’s empty chair. The missing Sister was adamant about prayer beginning on time, all of them being on time, the selfishness of doing anything to draw attention to yourself by being late – and yet, she wasn’t here. Finally, Sr. Margaret James broke the silence. “Sr. Mary Gerard, go check on Sr. Evangeline.”
Sr. Mary Gerard looked at her Superior, her questions not passing her lips. Sr. Margaret James knew what she was thinking, however. “Yes, it’s because you’re the youngest. If our Sister has fallen, you’re strong enough to help her get back up.” Even as a grown woman in a convent, it stunk being the youngest!
Obediently Sr. Mary Gerard got up and went down the hall to Sr. Evangeline’s room. She gently tapped on the door but got no answer. Tapping harder made no difference. Sighing, she called out “Sr. Evangeline, I’m opening the door.” There on the floor was Sr. Evangeline, fully dressed, but with a dark stain on the back of her veil. Sr. Mary Gerard had watched enough television as a child to know that someone had bashed in the back of Sr. Evangeline’s head. She had also watched her fellow humans long enough to know that everyone who met Sr. Evangeline had a motive to kill her, or at least punch her once. Feeling slightly guilty about this thought, realistic though it was, Sr. Mary Gerard returned to the chapel and reported the old nun’s demise.
No one reacted with shock or horror. “I’ll contact the authorities, Sisters. However, today is a normal school day, so I suggest your morning routine continue as usual so that you may do your best in your classrooms.” And that was that.