Well, I have been talking about it for a couple of days now. This epic story I had to write. I make no assumptions. But I am soliciting your comments. This story has to be formatted to MLA and what was given as a 3 page+ assignment has turned into a 12 page behemoth; While I will take your accolades, it would help me greatly if you should have feelings on editing I would certainly appreciate it. (Did I mention its VERY long)
Thanks for reading. (Oh, you should notice some underlined words, these indicate a required items for this story, so I can’t remove them, otherwise I have to find another place to say it in the story.) – And to those who got a preview, I changed the character’s name. I’m sorry, artistic license. 🙂
Trouble Fades With Time
For a long time Sister Catherine participated in this ritual, it was once again Christmas Eve and as she performed her duties preparing the wafers and wine for the sacrament over the bells and the din of the congregation she heard that voice again ”Are you listening?” it said. She quickly looked around but none of the faces seemed to be concentrating on her, they were all concentrating on The Holy See give reverence to the birth of the lord and savior. She quickly resumed her work but was nagged by this voice, this was the third time she’d heard the same phrase, she didn’t dare assume anything from it and soon began to believe she had imagined the whole thing, yet, she couldn’t easily dismiss it. She had been at the service of the church for 18 years, just after her parents’ death.
In other words, she had yet to really experience life. After the accident her family’s estate went into a trust and she moved into the convent. The will gave her control of the trust when she attained the age of 30 and until then the fund’s interest provided for her meager living. For 18 years, she had been participating in this mass, she knew every moment of the process, she knew when to attend to the altar and when to kneel. While reciting the Lord’s Prayer, she heard the voice again, this time more insistent, “The time is now, your freedom awaits.” Catherine again looked around, finding nothing, she couldn’t be more concerned about where this voice was coming from, but she suddenly felt the urge to scream and run from the building, she couldn’t explain it.
Never before had she questioned her place in this world, she hadn’t longed for a life that differed from the one she lived, but now, since the emergence of this voice she couldn’t shake the feeling of wonder. “What have I been missing these long years?” she thought to herself. She noticed how her movements had become robotic, lifeless, she no longer accessed the tranquil nature of her duties; she remained dutiful but found herself hoping the voice would reach out to her again. This time the voice was booming, the ringing in her head could not be silenced, the beating of her heart was epic, she couldn’t evade this feeling any longer. “This is your time, no longer are you to serve, you must run free!”
“There’s no time like the present”, she thought. She ran, knocking over a couple of men in her way. She heard the other sisters calling after her though she would not listen, she knew her mercurial exit would be a slap in the face to her mentors and to the church in general though she couldn’t stop; she had gone this far and there was no one standing in her way. She was ready to see the world, she was certain there was more life to live. Her mind was racing, the shouts after her were booming, the confusion she was creating made the moment even more pronounced. She considered for a moment turning around, feigning some sort of illness and begging for forgiveness, as quickly as she pondered this, she was already through the doors and into the cold night air.
Outside, Catherine couldn’t hear the commotion on the inside, yet she still kept running, she made her way through the narrow cobblestone streets, zigzagging left, then right, making her way towards the tourist district. She knew where the bank was, but also they would be closed for Christmas. She reached in her pocket and pulled a large wad of bills she’d quickly swiped from the offering when no one was looking. “There is some advantage to being seen and not seen” she thought to herself. She was not so callous to know that upon her arrival to the bank she would make sure restitution would be made for her deliberate act.
As she came to the next corner, she saw a cab and approached the driver. “Can you take me to the St. Regis Grand Hotel?” She asked. He nodded in agreement, as he started the car, she recognized the tune from a song she’d heard only once before. “Well I heard there was a secret chord/ That David played, and it pleased the Lord/ But you don’t really care for music, do ya?” She stiffened in her seat a little; she’d remembered where she heard the song before, the day her parents died.
That horrible February day, she’d been in the back seat fiddling with her CD player while her parents argued over something she was thoroughly disinterested in. While the song played through the headphones she faded into a relaxed daydream-like state. She heard the soft melody of the artist’s piano; his smooth almost milky voice caused her to sway ever so gently to the words “Well it goes like this/ The fourth, the fifth/ The minor fall and the major lift/ The baffled king composing Hallelujah”. Then came a sudden jerk of the car, spinning wildly out of control and the last thing Catherine remembered was the music flowing into her ears “I’ve seen your flag on the marble arch/ Love is not a victory march/ It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah”… She woke up a few days later in the hospital with only minor cuts and scrapes. She was lucky, the doctor said, “The truck only connected with the front end of the vehicle, your parents didn’t have time to react.” Instantly she was inundated with grief. Suddenly she was an orphan and it was the nuns who brought her to the Vatican and she who decided to become a nun.
As she sat in the back seat of the moving car that cold night she reflected on her actions just moments before she knew her actions were myopic as the convent had been her home for such a long period of her life, she imagined the grief and worry caused by her sudden disappearance would parallel that of her own moments of grief. She couldn’t think about that now, and as the taxi pulled up to the grand hotel, she paid her fare and opened the door, her life would soon change.
“Willkommen und Frohe Weihnachten” Said the doorman as she stepped out of the cab. “Welcome to the St. Regis Grand”, She nodded congenially and headed inside. Once she got to the check in desk, she asked for a suite facing the Tuskany archipelago. The desk clerk looked at her a little strangely as she was still dressed in her habit, but said nothing. Catherine received the keys and made her way to the elevator, as she pressed the button a younger man stepped beside her. She remained quiet and calm with her eyes fixated on the wall in front of her.
“Are you having a good evening?” he asked, as she turned she was a little struck by what she saw, this man in his early thirties looked as if he’d stepped out of a magazine. He stood almost towering over Catherine’s 5-foot-8 frame. His piercing emerald eyes seemed to look deep within the farthest reaches of Catherine’s confusion. “It’s been quite the evening for me” she stammered. “How so?” he asked with an inquisitive smile. “I had a conversation with someone who just changed my life, I think” she said with breathless conviction. The elevator announced its arrival with a sing-song chime. The doors opened allowing the two of them entry. He allowed her to step on first. When the doors closed, he looked at her, still in her habit and opened his mouth to say something only to close it softly. She looked his way, examining his features, as if they were chiseled out of marble by the most talented of sculptures. She started to feel a bit concerned about this moment. She asked “What brings you to Rome?” finding herself wanting to keep the dialogue going, as every time she lulled into a silence she heard that song again “And it’s not a cry that you hear at night/ It’s not somebody who’s seen in the light.” His voice brought her back to the moment, “I said, I’m on vacation, Christmas in Italy, there’s nothing more romantic, except New Year’s in Paris. I guess it can’t be romantic when you’re alone, eh?” The elevator came to a halt as it crept to her floor, as the doors opened and she exited, she looked backed and smiled for the first time since she left her home and duties then said “You never know what the creator has in store for us. Peace be with you” “And unto you as well” he said with a glint in his eyes.
As she walked to her room she allowed herself a moment of calm and a smile. She slid the key into the lock and opened the door. Her hand shook a little as she scanned the room. She had never seen such a garish display. The Jacuzzi tub was cut from a large slab of luminescent stone. The large king size bed with it’s Egyptian cotton sheets and down comforter, the unmatched art on the wall and the window was unfettered and as she looked out over the bay, she was awestruck by its beauty. It was lit only by the faint sliver of the moon peeking through the clouds and the faint lights of the harbor town on the other side of the expanse of water. She audibly sighed, “I’ve never been in such a place before” She knew at that moment, she could never go back from whence she came. She’d experienced a moment of what freedom was like and she was determined to look out towards the horizon and reach for the stars to transcend from this moment. But first, she longed for a soak in the Jacuzzi as she was still sore from her sudden explosion through the chapel and city.
As she filled the tub, she looked into the mirror. She never thought herself as drab before, but standing there next to such extravagance she felt a little out of place. As she started to remove her coif and veil her neatly trimmed auburn hair fell towards her face she pulled it back and stared at the woman looking back at her as if meeting her for the first time. Her eyes danced in the softly reflected light. Under the restrictive measure of her coif she was often seen with just her pale face peeking through the starched cotton. Now with her hair flowing free and the sparkle in her eyes she reflected on how attractive she really was. The bulk of her Holy Habit and Underskirts always made her look a little dumpy, but as she removed these also her slender frame came into view. She knew at that moment she would never carry such weight again. “Well your faith was strong but you needed proof/ You saw her bathing on the roof/ Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you”
As she slipped into the steamy swirls of the Jacuzzi she instantly melted, she was in no hurry to reflect upon the moments of the day, but the voice again reached out to her. “Your life has begun anew, the time has come for you to seize the day” She sat, unmoving, relaxed and just soaked in the moment. She wasn’t sure what to make of the voice or its meaning. But she silently agreed. She’d made an instant change. She’d chosen a new path and she would never look back.
The sun was shining though the window as she opened her eyes. It was Christmas morning and like many, she was ready to open the gift that had been presented to her, a chance at a new life.
She quickly dressed in the skirts of her habit. Without the veil she again looked at herself in the mirror, she was quickly discovering how striking her sharp looks were. She was a newborn lion, as she left for the shops she felt a fire well up inside. On the street there were people milling about, they greeted her with smiles as she seemed to look just a bit out of place, without her coif, her striking locks shifting in the changing winds. She stepped into a little boutique, the gentleman welcomed her warmly. “Bonjournio, how may I assist you?” Catherine hesitated for a moment. “I need to change my look, you see, I have left the church with but what you see before you and I know there are things of great beauty in this wonderful Shoppe and I would be proud to let them adorn me.” The man nodded and smiled thoughtfully, “What would you like to change?” Her reply came without letting a moment pass between the words “We are going to change everything.” Catherine tried on many things, but settled on a smart grey blouse and a sharp pencil skirt, combined with the silk stockings and short-heeled pumps, she looked unabashedly smashing. She purchased a couple of outfits and made a hurried return to the hotel.
Her habit would never be worn again, she deemed that moment as her rebirth, She’d found her lord and she would never forsake him, but she was on a decidedly different path at the moment. As she entered the lobby of the grand hotel she saw him again, dressed in an impeccably tailored Armani suit. The suit was cut just enough to reveal his well taken-care of body, but slack enough to leave something to the imagination. His smile lit up the room; he made no effort to hide his excitement at seeing her again. He rushed quickly from his current task and approached. “Hello again, I was wondering if I would get the opportunity to see you again” He quickly kissed each cheek. Her skin tingled ever-so-slightly when his lips touched her.
Playing through the lobby speakers she heard that song again. “Well maybe there’s a God above/ But all I’ve ever learned from love” She smiled. She wondered what the meaning was behind that, if one at all. “I’m Gerry” he said. Again, his deep emerald eyes peered within her. She blushed “I’m Catherine Elizabeth, I mean, I’m Catherine. Sorry, old habits are hard to break. I’m Catherine” She felt a little off kilter, aloof. His smile quickly put her at ease. “Please, may I assist you with your purchases?” He reached for her parcels and she reluctantly offered them forth. They made their way though the crowded lobby, the pair caused heads to turn. They reached the elevator and an elderly lady smiled at them. “Aren’t you two a striking pair?” Catherine blushed and smiled, it seemed as the lady was reading her mind. Gerry stood about 6 foot 5, with his side swept chocolate brown hair, luminescent eyes, chiseled features, charcoal suit and shiny leather shoes, he could have easily been mistaken for a model.
As they stepped into the elevator he turned to face her. He smiled, she melted. She knew there was something to this moment. She looked into his eyes, at the same time they said “Will you accompany me to dinner tonight?” and suddenly laughed. They exited upon her floor and as they approached the door they made plans to meet at this quiet place just to the rear of the hotel at 7:00 pm safely inside her room she walked to the bureau and opened the drawer. As she’d hoped a charity organization had left a bible for the hotel guests. She noticed there were two pages dog-eared. She opened to the first one. She noticed a single verse underlined; “As it is, these remain: faith, hope and love, the three of them; and the greatest of them is love. (Corinthians chapter 13, verse 13). The second also had a verse underlined “for in him were created all things in heaven and on Earth: everything visible and invisible, thrones, ruling forces, sovereignties, powers – all things were created through him and for him” (Colossians, chapter 1, verse 16)
This impacted her heavily for a moment. She kneeled beside the bed. “Lord, I feel as if I have done my duty and while I believe your power to be the glory in all things and of a loving nature, I can not help but think it is you who put me on this path, I seek your wisdom and knowledge. I pray for continued strength and for your guidance as I embark on my new journey. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, Amen.” She crossed herself as she finished her prayer. As she rose from the floor she heard the voice one final time. “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.”
She held her breath. She looked to the heavens. She felt at ease. She crossed herself once more. “On earth, as it is in Heaven” she solemnly replied.
As seven approached, she got dressed in the dress she’d purchased earlier in the day. Its slim fit complemented her shapely figure. She pulled her hair back into a slim ponytail exposing her slender neck and her soft jaw line. She applied some lip gloss and grabbed her clutch. She felt confident as she exited the elevator, she noticed a couple younger men turn and look her way, she couldn’t suppress a giggle. She’d never noticed people look her way before. She’d always been the invisible one, moving without consequence, measured steps, specific duties. Now, it was just her. And the man she was meeting for dinner.
Gerry was standing outside the restaurant when she stepped out onto the street. He quickly walked her way and offered his arm. They walked linked as if they’d been a couple for years. It just felt comfortable. The matre’d welcomed them and escorted them to their quiet table in a small room near the back of the restaurant. As she sat she looked around at their surroundings, There were wine bottles lining the walls, some quite dusty. They looked very old. The other couples were speaking in hushed tones, the aroma of the food was incredible. Gerry spoke to the waiter when he came to the table and ordered a bottle of Barolo Granbussia. She looked at Gerry with a little concern, as she knew not what he had ordered. He explained, I’m a bit of a wine connoisseur, a sommelier you could say. This is the toast of Bussia, in the village of Monforte d’Alba, Made by a friend of my father. This wine is aged separately for two years in oak barrels and then combined and then held in bottles for another six. I hope you will enjoy it.”
As the wine returned she remained a little apprehensive. Outside of communion she’d never experienced wine before, let alone what she imagined to be a very expensive wine. As the glasses were poured, Catherine confided in the moment. “I have never tried such a wine, you’ll have to forgive me for my trepidation” Gerry’s eyes danced in the flickering candlelight. Gerry replied “you’ll find no judgment from me. I am thrilled I bumped into you the other night in the lobby and you’re now here with me. There’s no tragedy in how one dies, it is how one has lived. You’re here now, we shall enjoy this evening, then, and only then shall you decide if you’d like to see me further. Now we shall enjoy our wine and dinner.” As if on cue, the waiter appeared with their eggplant parmesan.
As they finished their dessert and coffee, Gerry paid the bill and they stepped into the cool air, as they strolled down the street they came across a nightclub where some soft jazz music escaped from the open door. Catherine perked up just a bit. “Can we go in there” She asked. Gerry chuckled softly, “With you? I would be honored” As they entered the club the view to the bar was thick with smoke, the faint hum of a lone saxophone permeated the moment. The men on the dance floor were leading their partners across the floor like a matador leads a bull. Catherine leaned against Gerry for a moment. They swayed together “Well there was a time when you let me know/ What’s really going on below/ But now you never show that to me do you?/ And remember when I moved in you?” As the song finished she looked up at him, he looked back at her and gently kissed her forehead. “I think we should call it a night” Gerry said, she nodded. He walked her back to her room and at her door, they made plans to meet the following day, then like a true gentleman he kissed her on the cheek, and walked towards his own room softly humming the tune they’d heard earlier.
The next morning, she awoke early. This was the day, her birthday. She had to go to the bank. She was waiting when the doors opened. She walked to the teller and asked to see the manager. “Can I inform him what this is regarding?” she asked. “I have an account her, opened by the will of my parents and kept in trust until I turned 30, which is today.” She presented her passbook and identification. The teller stepped back and into an office. After a few moments the bank manager came to the desk and asked her a few perfunctory questions; “What is your name?” Catherine Sarah Bonifigilo. “How old are you?” 30, just today, I was born on 26/December. “How long has this account been open?” Just over 18 years, it was opened just after my parent’s death.
Having seemingly passed his examination he asked her to accompany her into his office. Mr. Fink read the nameplate on his desk. He addressed her casually, “Miss, do you know how much money is in this account?” She sat back in the chair and thought for a couple of minutes, “I’m not an expert on interest, but I imagine, even at a modest level, there has to be near 2 million euros in there” Mr. Fink managed an uneasy grunt and an attempt to cover it with a chuckle. “Miss, this account started with an estate valued at near 1.9 million euro, after all property had been liquidated, it was placed into a fixed-rate trust earning 6.75% per annum. Given your living expenses have been light in the last 18 years, a handful of deductions totaling $8,500 euro. The value of your account is 4.2 million euros. We would like it if you reconsidered your closure of the account today.” Catherine pondered a moment; “Can I move it into another account, one not accessible by anyone else?” “Of course” Mr. Fink replied. After all the paperwork was completed, she asked the bank to deliver her restitution to the church with a quick note of apology. Catherine walked out of the bank with her life in her name and within her own grasp. She couldn’t imagine being of such wealth. She took a moment to reflect on the lost of her parents those many years ago; she’d suddenly wished she knew where they’d been buried. She’d never thought to try to find out. Regardless, she couldn’t wait to celebrate.
When she returned to the hotel she called Gerry’s room. The phone rang; it rang a second time, and a third. There was no answer. She went to the front desk and asked the clerk if she had any messages. “Oh, there is one, from a gentleman” and handed her a note. It read: “Dearest Catherine, I’ve been called back to France at the most urgent of notice. I tried to locate you before my departure but found you were absent. I certainly would like to see you again, if you can, I’ve left my business card. Please call me at your leisure. Warmest Regards, Gerry.”
Catharine looked at the card; it read “Gerry Lemeiux, Curator, Visual Arts Department, Musée du Lourve, Paris, France” She stood there, enrapt in the moment. Rather than calling, she thought better. She needed an escape from this place. She knew he’d be waiting. New Year’s Eve would be quickly upon them, what a better way to start the year than in a new place. She went to the concierge and asked him to book her a one way, first class ticket to Paris. She’d always wanted to see Paris, now she’d get to see it in its entire splendor.
As her plane was taxiing down the runway, she looked at Rome one last time. She didn’t know if her travels would bring her back to the place she’d called home for so long but she did know that she would seize every opportunity to enjoy her new found freedom. As the plane lifted from the ground she heard “And the holy dove was moving too/ And every breath we drew was Hallelujah…” She somehow felt at ease as the attendant handed her a glass of champagne she offered one small blessing “L’chaim” “To Life”