What if the reason Father Flynn left St Nicholas was for an entirely different reason, one that spiralled directly out of his control?
There are some things that can not be said. Some things are out of my power. Beyond my control. And some of these things, you have to know, are not just out of my control, but the control of human nature.
Donald Miller, the student in question, needed help. He was a new student, an innocent, twelve year old, isolated black boy who turned to me when in distress. I also shared a closeness with him as he was an altar boy, and I cared about him very deeply.
Therefore, when Donald had been caught drinking altar wine a couple of days previously, I had, to save him embarrassment, decided not to speak up and let the matter rest. Not right, I know, but I also knew it would cause him more distress than was needed if he was to be removed from the altar boys.
What Sister Aloysius was trying to hint at was that morning was that I and Donald had begun an improper and unnatural relationship. I stopped stirring my tea and stared at her, honestly lost for words. What I realised Sister Aloysius was accusing me of, when I had innocently come along to discuss what I initially thought were entirely different matters - made my stomach turn.
I glanced from her to Sister James, poor, sweet, easily led Sister James, who was avoiding my gaze like the plague. There was a dull flush upon her usually ghostly pale porcelain skin. The dull flush made my heart stop and my stomach turn over, and it was not something I could erase from my mind entirely, for when she eventually met my gaze again with her divine blue eyes, looking at me curiously from beneath her lashes, I was completely speechless. To hide this, I set down my cup of tea and cleared my throat. "Leave it be," I said, harshly.
There was a minutes silence. "What did you talk about with Donald when you called him to the rectory?" Sister Aloysius snapped at me. Her eyes flashed furiously in the gloom of the dimly lit office.
I was not ready to give up that easily. I shook my head, face in my hands, ready to speak if and when it happened, if and when I decided.
The phone began to ring, a deafening ring in the deadly silence that made us all jump out of our skin. We all ignored it - until Sister James, unable to control herself, asked if she should pick it up.
"No!" Sister Aloysius snapped. I saw the slightly disgruntled look that Sister James gave her superior.
"I'm uncomfortable," I warned her. "I do not wish to discuss this matter with you."
There was a deafening roar in my ears, droning on continuously, effortlessly. Donald's situation was coaxed out of me eventually, and therefore I knew I had no choice now but to remove him from the altar boys.
"I am not please about the way you handled this, Sister." These were my last words as I left the office that day.
Down the corridor, by the lockers, I stopped to take a drink from the water fountain, wiped the sweat that was congregating in droplets off my forehead. I was shocked and dismayed, appalled and disgusted, and - I turned to leave in trouble in more ways than one.
I was helplessly besotted with Sister James.
Recently - ( I will admit that I am exceptionally disappointed in myself -) she had been popping up in my dreams in a way that made me extremely glad that Aloysius was not psychic - but I had tried to ignore these feelings. Now, they were becoming relentless, and they were starting to torture me. My head was spinning and I felt sick and dizzy. Struggling with all this wrongness and conflict, I spent the entire night writing a sermon about gossip, which I very pointedly spoke about in church on the following Sunday. I saw Aloysius in the pews, and I felt as though I was speaking directly to her, hoping that the message would sink in. She could not have possibly got the situation more wrong.
I spoke with Sister James in the courtyard an hour after mass. She was alone, and told me that her brother in Maryland had written a letter to her explaining that he was sick. Although I encouraged her to go and visit him, she refused - she could not leave her class.
I felt a pang of satisfaction, and it was nothing to do with the fact that I was smoking my first cigarette of the day. Good at keeping things to myself, I kept my calm when Donald Miller entered the conversation. Sister James told me that she did not believe it was true that I had interfered with the boy in any way. The feelings inside me when I heard this were nothing I had felt in a long, long time.
I watched her as she walked away, and turned back to look at me, and smiled at me. A warm feeling spread through my veins, and I was still watching her when she returned in the school doors. That night, I had a better nights sleep than I had had in quite some time.
She didn't leave my thoughts for one second from that moment onwards. She was, undoubtedly, the most beautiful woman I had ever come across, and not only that, the most unreachable. These feelings were wrong - but I found myself walking around the school corridors more often over the next couple of weeks, hoping to catch just one glimpse of her.
She did eventually go to visit her sick brother, and it felt like half of me was missing in those few days - they dragged on painfully.
The situation with Donald had, in my mind, been taken over by my attraction to sister James, and therefore, did not bother me until the day I saw his mother in the office with Aloysius.
"What was Donald's mother doing in here?" I snapped, barging in the office an hour later. "You have to stop this campaign against me!"
The next few minutes passed by in a hazy blur. Failing to get through to her about these false accusations, I gave up. It was impossible to get through to this woman. She had no compassion or understanding whatsoever, and I told her exactly that.
"You will request a transfer, and take a leave of absence until it is granted," she told me, coldly.
These words tore me apart inside. Ripped me from limb to limb. Shattered my heart into too many pieces to count. I sat at her desk, set my prayer book down.
"You can use the phone if you like."
She stormed out of the office, leaving me alone with nothing but my thoughts, nothing but my desperation. I could have sat there for minutes, it could have been hours.
I was never going to see her again. Never. I had messed up, it was true, but no one had any idea why, or how. The only way out of this is to leave, I thought. She won't give in. She'll never give in.
She'll never believe me, and I can't tell her the truth.
Over the next few weeks, after my last mass service, I felt helpless. As though I was drowning.
The only time I ever saw Sister James after that was four weeks later, when I was walking down the street near the church I had so longed to stay with, the congregation I had loved and cared for. Although we did not converse, there was her smile. Her smile that made my spirits lift.
Needless to say, I will never forget her, oh, no. Never feel that way about anyone ever again. When I'm lying in bed sometimes, letting every thought and dream sink into my mind - particularly after the Bishop made me pastor of my new church, St Jerome, I still remember Sister James and the special place in my heart that I will never be able to replace her with. And, I find, every morning when I wake up, that I have doubts.