Image: Courtesy – Prachika Saxena
The footsteps in the cloister echoed through each of the Sisters cells. Inside each cell, minds puzzled over where the steps might stop. Sister Alice knew who owned the footsteps, the unmistakable sound of the leather hitting the stone pathway, the ring of the loose nail in her right shoe cut through Alice as she awaited the inevitable knock on her door.
She said her prayer, a cry for help, for courage, for resilience knowing that when the door opened, and the Reverend Mother stood in her doorway, she would suck in a huge breath in preparation for the Reverend Mother’s demand she initially show her humility by kneeing in silence and bowing her head as an act of obedience to her.
The Reverend Mother carried a cane that she would use to lift the young novices’ heads and staring them in the eyes would tell them so much more was expected of them.
Each novice was expected to submit themselves to acts of humility, to confess all and any thought of sin and accept the just punishments given out by the Reverend Mother.
Sometimes they were cruel, kitchen duty for a month with only the left-over scraps to be eaten, this punishment as tiring as it was, was considered preferable to the ultimate humiliation of bathing the Reverend Mother.
Theirs’ was an enclosed order given to the glory of and praise of God, but with one perverse exception that being the Reverend Mother’s desire for pleasure all given in the name of God, after all the Reverend Mother explained to the terrified novices, Christ was a man, surrounded by women, so of course he found pleasure in them.
Sister Alice trembled, as she with eyes cast down, she listened to the Reverend Mother’s sermon on bathing.