Title: I Lied
The Reverend Mother of Saint Katherine's Convent sighed deeply and put her head in her hands. She was exhausted. The concert was over and his Holiness the Pope had left.
There was a soft knock on her door, as if the person knew what a terrible headache was pounding through her head right now. She felt most inclined not to answer for she just wanted to be alone.
"Come in," she called in spite of herself. Even she could hear the fatigue in her voice as Bishop O'Hara stepped into the office. She smiled at him weakly and inclined her head in greeting.
"Are you okay?" O'Hara asked, sounding worried.
"I am a little tired," she responded honestly. "But I am proud of them. They sang beautifully tonight."
"Yes, they certainly did." He smiled. "You should rest, Mother."
"Oh, no, I still have some work to do."
He stepped behind her chair and put his hands on her shoulders. As he rubbed them, he could feel her tense shoulders begin to loosen up a little.
"You work too hard," he stated as she leaned back in her straight backed chair.
"Mmmm," she mumbled incoherently, closing her eyes. "This is a wicked indulgence."
"What?" He sounded amused. "Relaxing?"
"Enjoying this," she whispered. "Enjoying this is an indulgence, a sin."
"Good Lord, Margaret, you need to relax and enjoy yourself every once in a while."
She looked up at him with wide eyes.
"No one has called me Margaret in many years," she said uncertainly. She studied the face of the man, whom she had known for so many years.
"I know. Remember when we first met? Father Maurice, yourself and I. We had fun, didn't we?"
This made her laugh quietly.
"Oh yes, I suppose so. We certainly caused Bishop O'Malley some sleepless nights. Oh, Joseph, everything has been so hectic and… I can't handle it, Joseph!" A lone tear slipped down her cheek. "I can't handle it anymore. I am a relic, not meant for the modern church."
Joseph O'Hara pulled her out of her chair and into his arms. He held her tight to him, stroking her back soothingly.
"Oh, my dear, you are not a relic. You are a wonderful Mother Superior and the sisters love you. You've taken such good care of them and it is obvious to everyone that you care deeply for them. You're driving yourself too hard."
"Everything just became too much with Mary Clarence – Deloris – and… I'm so proud of them but…" she sobbed into O'Hara's robes.
"Sursum corda, my dear," he whispered. She lifted her eyes to his. He hated seeing her like this, with red eyes and tearstains down her cheeks. He knew that very few persons had ever seen her like this and certainly never one of the sisters. Cupping her cheeks with his hands, he wiped away her tears. "Please don't cry, Margaret. I can't stand to see you cry. Remember, God is always behind you… and so am I."
"Thank you," she sniffed. She dried her eyes in her loose sleeves. "I'm sorry, Monsignor."
"Oh don't be, my dear. Never be sorry to be yourself with me. We've been friends for too many years for that. I am always here for you."
With a last smile and a kiss on the Reverend Mother's cheek, O'Hara left the office. Mother Superior sat down heavily in her chair, feeling emotionally and physically drained. She could faintly hear the choir celebrating their success, singing as they went down the corridors. She couldn't blame them. They had come a long way with the choir and it had been an extraordinary night.
"…Just call my name
I'll be there in a hurry
You don't have to worry
There ain't no mountain high enough
Ain't no valley low enough
Ain't no river wide enough
To keep me from getting to you…"
The voices faded out as the choir passed her door. She smiled to herself. She knew that the song expressed the way they felt about God, the way she felt about Him. But something deep inside her protested and said that maybe, just maybe, the Almighty wasn't the only one she'd do anything for.
"Oh, this is ridiculous!" she mumbled and left the office.
She entered the safety of her cell with a deep breath and leaned against the door for a few moments after closing it behind her. She was physically and emotionally drained but as she lay down in her bed, said a silent prayer and closed her eyes to go to sleep, she found that sleep eluded her. For what seemed like hours she stared at the ceiling, not really thinking anything but still not able to fall asleep.
The next few nights were the same; she felt tired, exhausted even and yet sleep would never find her when she finally went to bed. A fortnight had passed since the concert and she had had no real sleep. Dark circles were forming underneath her eyes and the thin woman became even thinner as she lost weight. And yet, she pretended not to notice the concerned looks she got from the sisters. However, she could not – no matter how hard she tried – ignore the moments where she saw concern shine from her friend, Monsignor O'Hara's eyes. She knew that he was worried about her, even though he hadn't mentioned it – but as she had no explanation to it herself, she didn't bring it up.
One afternoon, Bishop O'Hara walked into Mother Superior's office, only to find her bent over in her chair, resting her head on the desk, fast asleep. He smiled a bit but the smile was quickly replaced by a frown as he noticed how tense she looked. He realized that it was indeed not the most comfortable of positions to be bent over your table and he went to stand beside her. Shaking her shoulder gently, he tried to wake her up.
"Margaret? Margaret? Wake up," he said quietly. But she didn't. He tried again. And again. And yet again and she still didn't wake up. He sighed to himself.
"Okay, you asked for it then…"
He lifted her out of her chair, silently thanking God that she had never been a big woman. He did, however, worry a bit about the fact that she was so light. She had lost more weight than he thought.
With the sleeping nun in his arms, he only had to worry about getting to her cell without any of the sisters noticing. He knew of course that that would be completely impossible so he just walked right down the corridors, holding his childhood friend tight. She moaned softly in her sleep and a sister passing by blushed lightly.
Finally reaching her cell, he laid her on her bed, pulling the covers over her. He sat himself on the floor next to her bed and watched her sleep. He didn't know how long he sat there and he didn't really mind. After a few hours, she moaned again and he looked up sharply to see if she was waking up. Her eyes opened and she looked at him absent-mindedly for a few moments.
"Good morning, Mother Sleepyhead," he said softly, with a small grin playing on his lips.
"Don't tell me good morning, for I know I am not awake," was her only response. Her eyes seemed to tear up and O'Hara was filled with worry once again.
"But you most certainly are, my dear."
"No. You're in my cell and you never would be had I been awake. Will you do me a favor?"
"Of course, anything," he answered, not quite sure what was going on.
"Kiss me," she said shortly.
"I – I beg your pardon?" he exclaimed, startled.
"Kiss me. Please. Kiss me."
"Margaret, you have taken a vow of chastity," he said sternly, wishing he could kiss her. But they were people of the church and they had both taken vows.
"I know… I lied," she grinned. "Besides, a kiss would hardly break that vow, do you think?"
"Margaret, you are not fully awake, you don't know what you are doing. Go back to sleep now. Close your eyes," he instructed.
"Please, Joseph, kiss me," she mumbled before sleep overtook her once again.
"I wish I could," he whispered sadly. Then he got up and went to the door. As he was about to turn the doorknob, he turned around and went back to her bed. There, he bent down and pecked the corner of her mouth softly.
"There," he whispered before he left her to sleep.
A/N: Please review, as I'm absolutely not sure about posting this story. Hope you weren't completely offended by my obvious disregard for the Christian religion. :P