MATINS 1907 | By: Terry Collett | | Category: Short Story - Religous Bookmark and Share


The bell from the cloister rang. Echoed around and settled upon nun in bed cosy in blanket against morning’s cold and frost. Stirred. Head raised. Eyes peered into the dawn’s light, sighed, shivered, moved arms against body’s length. Closed eyes. Wished for more sleep. None to have. Bell rang. Time, ladies, please. Time and tide. Stirred again. Lifted head. Sighed. Gazed at bedside table. Clock tick tock, tick tock. Moved to edge of the bed. Feet dangled. Toes wiggled. Hands joined for prayer. Breath stilled. Silence of the room. Bell stopped. Sighed. Breathed air, cold air. Wake up, rise, and shine. Funny words. Tired still. Wished to sleep, but no time. Dangled feet rose and fell. Toes wriggled. Rose from bed and knelt on wooden floor. Hard floor. Cold floor. Polished to a shine floor. Knees slid on smooth surface. Back stiff from straw-stuffed bedding. Sighed. Sister Teresa joined hands. Let fingers touch. Let flesh touch flesh. Sin on sin once maybe. Long ago. Sighed. Opened eye. Gazed at crucifix on wall above bed. Old Christ, battered by time and grime. Eye closed image held in mind’s eye. Prayer began. Words searched for amongst the wordless zones. Reaching through darkness for an inch of light. Light upon light. Darkness upon darkness. Who felt this she does not know. None speak except Sister John. Word upon word built. Holy upon holy. Sit here, she’d say. Rest a while. Rest in cloister. Rest on bench by cloister wall. You and she. Her hands old and wrinkled by time and age. Her eyes glassy. Her voice thin and worn, yet warm. Want to be close to warm. Especially in dark cold mornings like this, Teresa mused, lifting head and opening eyes to dawn’s light and cold’s chill in bone and skin. She stood and dressed. Disrobed from nightgown and into habit. Black as death with white wimple of innocence. Laughed softly. Such times. Such times. Harsh serge against soft flesh. Stiff whiteness on skin’s paleness. Sighed. Coughed. Made sign of cross from head to breast to breast. Never to touch, mama said, never let be touched. Words, long ago. Mama is dead. Rest in peace. No mirror. No image of seventeen-year old face or features now. Vanity of vanities. Sighed. Papa said, some men would deceive. Deceived by what? She often asked but none would tell. Ding dong bell. Silence now. Go now. Moved to door and down the cloister to the church and the dawn’s welcome cold and still. Teresa closed door and walked at pace soft and motionless seeming. None shall speak. Sing and chant and raise eyes and maybe a smile briefly, but none shall speak. Nor touch. For none may touch. Not as much as a sleeve felt or breath sensed. Each one an island. Water upon water none shall cross. Teresa sighed. Walked down the steps one by one, not to rush but not to lag sloth-like, lazily or drag wearily. Mother Abbess would know. Knows all. Sensed all. Next to God most feared. Most loved maybe if truth were known. Teresa sighed. Chill of cloister ate at bones and flesh. Nimble walking might ease, but walk as nuns do and cold bites like violent fish. Breathed in the air. The moon still out. Stuck out on a corner bright and white. The sun’s colour fed the dawn’s light. Brightness promised. Warmer weather. Warmer than Sister John. Who knows, Teresa mused, touching the cloister wall for sense of touch. Absence of touch can mean so much, Jude said, years before. Jude’s image faded now. No longer haunting as before. Teresa brushed her finger on the cloister wall. Rough and smooth. Rough and smooth. Men may deceive, papa said. Let none touch, mama advised. Long ago or seeming so. Seventeen-years old and innocent as innocence allowed. Jude laughed, feeling such. Wanting to touch. Over much. Entered church. Cool air. Sense of aloneness. Choir stalls. Smell of incense and polish mixed. Sense upon sense. Smell and upon smell. Walked slowly. Genuflected to Christ. High on high. All seeing. Like Mother abbess. But less human. Less human all too human. The crucified for all to see. Half naked there. Stretched wide arms. Head dangling lifeless or so seeming. Genuflection over moved to place in choir stall, stood, and stared at vacant wall. Brick upon brick. Sounds held. Chants upon chants sang once, held here. Chill in bone and flesh. Breviary held. Pages turned. Find the place and mark it well. Bell pulled sounds now. Nuns enter and gather round. Sister upon sister, elbow near elbow, but none may touch. None touch. None touch.Sister Rose eyes dim searched yours for morning joy. Smiled. Coughed. Awaited tap from Abbess. Smiled. Nodded. Hands held beneath black serge. Wanting to hold something, someone, but none may do so. None may touch. Tap, tap, wood on wood. Chant came as if from the cold air settled on ears. Felt in breast. Sensed and blessed, but none may touch. The sense to sing. The voice raised. The ear tuned. The mouth and lips employed, but none may touch. At least, said Sister Rose, not over much. Not over much. Still air. Cold air. Warmth wanted. Sister John or Sister Rose. None shall touch.
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