tagRomanceOf Heaven and Hell, My Side Ch. 03

Of Heaven and Hell, My Side Ch. 03


Chapter three in less than two years. This has a lot of story and not too much sex. Now once again I think that I have to point out: I know nothing about the Benedictine Order. All of the rituals or traditions are just figments of my demented imagination. I made it all up. So if you know about the Benedictines...that's nice, but I don't want to know where I got it wrong.

Once again this little tale is dedicated to Catheath, who lives on the other side of the pond.

Please enjoy.

Chapter 3

The plane landed on time. I took my backpack and walked to the ramp. I saw Rose at the bottom of the ramp, she was jumping up and waving. She is a bit of a nut, we were novices together and we got in and out of trouble together. Needless to say we have grown very close over the years. She gave me a hug and started with the questions, she wanted to know about everything I did.

After getting my bag and going to the car, I began to tell her about St. Louis. I told her about meeting Zack and him taking me to dinner and spending "some" time with him. I went into great detail about my talk and the panel discussion and about Margaret taking me to breakfasts. Going to the baseball game, getting the ball signed and going to the Arch.

I didn't want to lie to Rose and I ended up waking a thin line. Basically, I just left a lot of things out. Sticking to the truth and leaving out the majority of the week.

I wanted to tell her everything but that would mean asking her to keep it a secret from everyone and I couldn't do that to her. I would tell her but it would be just before I spoke to the Mother Superior. But for as nutty as Rose can be at times, she is very intelligent and very astute.

She gave me a funny look and said, "Does he still think that you are beautiful?" Then she laughed and said, "Of course he does, I'm sure that he didn't go blind."

Thank god that she was looking at the road, she didn't see my look of surprise. Nothing more was said. We stopped at my office at the university, there was a week's worth of mail and messages from teachers, students and administrators. I just threw everything in a bag and took it back to my room at the convent.

After getting settled, I had placed the signed baseball on the top of my dresser next to the "Iceberg." I then started to go through the messages and mail. It was the usual stuff and I went through it rather quickly, answering some and ignoring others. Rose and I had dinner and she told me the news of the convent and anything that I might have missed about the order.

After dinner I returned to my room and worked on things that had to be done before I returned to school. The phone rang around eight o'clock that evening and I knew who it was even before I picked it up. I opened the phone, closed my eyes and said, "Hello, my love."

I heard a laugh and he said, "Hello, my darling, I miss you so much." Then he added, "Wouldn't it have been something if it was the Mother Superior calling."

I gave an audible sigh and said, "Don't you think I check the caller ID before I answer? And by the way, I miss you too." We went on and talked for about an hour and then once again he asked me to marry him and I once again said yes. We said good night and after a hundred "I love yous," hung up.

A short while later, as usual, Rose knocked on my door. We have been saying our final prayers together since we were in the novitiate. I felt a little funny, praying like this after what had occurred in St. Louis. I only hoped that the Good Lord would understand and forgive me.

The next day being Sunday meant mass in the chapel. I hadn't been to mass since I had first spent the night with Zack. There was no way I could take the Eucharist, what we had done was looked upon as a grievous sin. I would have to have reconciliation first.

I was sorry that I had sinned but I wasn't sorry that I loved Zack. I got up early and prepared myself for my confession.

As early as I could I was in the chapel and waited until Father Joseph Moran (Father Joe) arrived. I approached the confessional with a bit of trepidation. Although Father Moran was a relatively young man and was understanding he was still a rather strict priest. I had known him when I was teaching in Minneapolis, he was originally from Baltimore and had known that I taught at St Steven's, his high school's cross-town rival. Something he never let me forget. I went in and he opened the screen and I started going through the rite. Although I expected him to interrupt, he didn't.

I ended with "That is all, Father."

There was silence for what seemed like a year. Then in a very soft voice, so soft that I had to strain to hear what he said, he started, "Well my dear Sister Carol, this isn't exactly what I expected on this lovely Sunday morning."

"But, tell me were you confessing the fact that you love this young man or that the two of you sinned in the manifestation of that love. The love is not sinful, even falling in love with a religious. Nor is it a sin for a religious to fall in love with another. But the physical expression of that love outside of marriage is a sin. No matter how wonderful and right it seems, nor does the fact that this act is done with the greatest love, make it any less sinful."

"Tell me, are you serious about leaving the Order and marrying this young man?"

"Yes Father, I am. I love him and I want to be his wife, to spend the rest of my life with him." I answered. "Father, I'm not asking to be forgiven for loving Zachary. I do love him and I always will. I don't believe that my love for him is sinful. What I am sorry for and I ask to be forgiven is the breaking of my vows and for not waiting for marriage before we gave our love its physical expression."

"My dear Carol, I believe you and no one could ask for a more honest request for forgiveness. I will give you absolution, but I am going to give you what will probably be one of the most difficult penances that you have ever received."

"What I want, is for you to spend the day in your room, in prayer and contemplation. I want you to fast today, no food, just water. Talk to no one, see no one, just you in your room with God. Talk only to Our Lord, see only Our Lord in prayer and contemplation. I want you to think about what you are going to do. Think long and hard. Ask God for guidance, ask him and he will provide you with a pathway."

"Now, go and attend Mass and take the Eucharist, then to your room. Tomorrow, return to the University and the classroom. No more fasting, but prayer and contemplation. I will be at the University on Tuesday and we will talk again."

Never before had I been more grateful for his understanding and forgiveness. "Thank you Father."

He then added, "Oh, one other thing, I would like you to hold off telling Mother Superior about leaving the Order. Let's talk, there is no rush. You still have to finish the semester and there is going to be enough activity and stress to keep you occupied."

I smiled and said, "Again, thank you, Father. I will see you on Tuesday."

I left the confessional and went to Mass, and later returned to my room, with a couple bottles of water. I prayed and thought. I thought about what I had done, about the love I had for Zack and of the love he had for me.

I thought of the consequences of that love, leaving my vocation, becoming a wife and possibly even a mother. As I prayed and thought, the enormity of my decision began to overwhelm me. But, as I prayed, a sort of peace came over me. I knew that the Lord would guide me and that I would follow his path, no matter where it led.

That evening as I sat reading my prayer book, my cell phone rang. I looked at the caller ID and saw that it was Zack. For as much as I wanted to pick up the phone and hear the voice of my beloved, I had given my word. I let it go to voice mail.

I went to sleep that night at peace with the world. If the day of prayer and contemplation did anything, it just strengthened my decision to leave the Order and spend the rest of my life with my love...my Zachary.

The next day I returned to the University and realized what a week away meant. It seemed that I had so much work that I would never catch up. I was back in the whirlwind of teaching.

I met with Father Joe on Tuesday and at least once a week thereafter. I spoke to Zack every night. That was the high point of my day. Just hearing his voice and telling him about my day calmed me down and sort of recharged my batteries.

The weeks flew by and April became May and May became June. Our year for underclassmen ended in mid-June, a bit late, but we wouldn't start the Fall semester until mid-September. The heat is really bad in July and August and into the first part of September.

The end of May and the beginning of June were unbelievably busy. Reviewing the year's work, preparing final exams, grading the projects I had assigned and meeting with students, who wanted or needed some extra help.

I was usually exhausted by the time I got back to my room at the convent. In fact one evening I dozed off while talking to Zack and I dropped the phone. He laughed and said, "Go to bed, my love. I will talk to you tomorrow. I love you."

Finally, the craziness was over and I could take a deep breath. One evening, I was going to take a hot bubble bath and relax. As I was getting a towel out of my closet a small box fell and struck me on the head.

I laughed and thought how glad I was that it wasn't a textbook or it might have knocked me out. As I bent down and picked it up, I noticed that is was box of sanitary napkins. Then it hit me. I had missed my "friend." I hadn't gotten my period for a while, not that they were ever very regular, but... I just shrugged it off as being so stressed out and that is what caused me to be late.

But, now that I was conscious of it, I watched. I didn't come. I waited another two weeks. It was the end of June and nothing. I had to do something.

I dressed in regular street clothes, took the car I usually used and drove a couple of towns away. I didn't want anyone that I knew seeing me purchase the thing I had to get. I bought three.

I brought them back to the convent and went into the bathroom. After following the instructions and waiting the allotted time, all three showed blue plus signs. My God, I was pregnant. I was going to have a child, no we were going to have a child.

What a fool I was, what fools we were. The thought of protection had never entered my mind. Neither of us thought of it. Now that lapse of responsibility had come home to roost. I was pregnant, I was with child. I lay down on my bed and began to cry, what was I going to do?

Then I stopped myself. No, I would not be sad. This was a joyous occasion. This was the fruit of our love. I knew in my heart that Zack would be overjoyed. That he would want this child as I did.

As I lay on my bed, there was a soft knock on my door. I quickly sat up and said, "Yes, come in." I had a very good idea who it was.

Rose slowly opened the door and came in. She looked at me and in a very worried voice, said, "Carol, what is wrong? Are you okay?"

She came in and sat on the chair by my desk. She glanced over the desk and then did a double take. She stared at the three plastic pen shaped objects lying there and she picked one up. I was sure that she could see the blue plus signs.

She looked over at me, oh so slowly, her eyes wide with surprise. "Are these what I think they are?"

I nodded and then began to cry again. Rose came to my side and put her arms around me. "Oh my god Carol, what are you going to do? How...well we know how... what..."

I slowly collected myself and in a voice so low that I could hardly hear myself, I told my friend the whole story. Meeting Zack at the conference, my talk, his talk, our walks, the whole story about the ball game and the Arch. I told her everything...well almost everything, I didn't get descriptive.

We sat and I talked and she listened. I must have talked for hours, telling her of the feelings of love I had for him and that I knew that he had for me. Finally, that I was going to leave. That I was going to Zack and marry him. I knew that he still wanted me and would want the child that we had created.

Rose sat with her arms around me. When I finished and looked at her I saw tears in her eyes. She was crying. She gave me a sad smile. "I had a feeling when I picked you up at the airport that I was going to lose you. I am going to lose the best friend that I ever had."

I held her tight and said, "No Rose, we aren't going to lose each other. We have been separated before and you are going to Minneapolis soon. So this separation won't be so bad. And I will always be in Baltimore."

Rose put her down and said, "But, this will be different, you will have a new life and..."

"...and I will never forget you. I may be giving up this life but you are a part of my life. You are my friend...my sister. You are the only sister that I have ever had. I won't lose you."

"But Carol, things won't be the same. You will have a husband and a child. And I will be a nun."

"Yes we will be different, but I will be Carol and you will be Rose. We will always be sisters."

"Have you told Mother Belinda?" she asked.

"Not yet, I was waiting for the school year to end and everything to be settled."

"When are you going to tell her?"

I looked at Rose and then at the clock radio and put on my bravest smile and said, "I guess there is no time like the present."

We stood and Rose hugged me. "What can I say? I am losing the best friend I ever had. I know...I know...but that's the way I feel."

We both started to cry, again, holding each other. Knowing that Rose was behind me made going to our Superior somewhat easier.

We let go and I washed my face, trying to wash away the tears and signs of crying. I didn't look too bad, but my eyes were a little bloodshot. Rose also washed and then both of us walked to the Mother Superior's office.

We came to the door and Rose gave me another quick hug. She looked at me and with a sad smile said in a halting voice, "Well, you're on your own now. Promise you won't forget me."

"I will never forget you, you are always in my heart and we will always be sisters."

I turned and walked to the door and knocked. I heard a, "What is it? Come in."

I looked over at Rose and smiled, she returned the smile and I opened the door and went in. Mother Belinda looked up over her glasses and smiled. "Please come in Carol take a seat."

Then in a loud voice she said, "Rose, are you coming in too or are you just going to stand out there."

I smiled and heard Rose say, "I've got things to do, Mother."

Mother Belinda answered, "Well then don't just stand there, do them."

I heard Rose's footsteps as she walked away.

I closed the door and took a seat in one of the chairs in front of her desk. She gave me a funny look, put her head back on the chair, closed her eyes and said, "Why do I have the feeling that I don't want to have this conversation?"

She looked back at me and gave me "the stare." Mother Belinda is probably in her mid to late sixties, she is a big woman, both physically and in personality. She can be hard as nails when need be, but she can also be soft and understanding. I needed the second part today.

All of a sudden "the stare" was gone and her face softened and she said, "Well, are you going to sit there all day in silence? Or are you going to tell me what happened in St. Louis?"

I was in shock, you could have knocked me over with a feather. How??? How did she know?

"It's a man, isn't it? It's usually a man. Well girl, out with it. Give me all of the dirty details. You want to marry him, don't you? This is why I have argued that we shouldn't allow our sisters to travel and go to conferences alone. There is strength in numbers."

"Do you love him? What a question, of course you do or you wouldn't be here, would you?"

"Has he asked you to marry him?"

"Yes, Mother."

"Probably every time you talk to him, right? And you gush and tell him 'yes' every time, don't you?"

"Yes Mother."

"Carol, you are one of the best we have. There is no doubt in my mind that one day you would be a leader in the Order. The problem is that I am sure that you will be a wonderful wife and maybe mother one day."

I felt embarrassed and lowered my eyes when she said mother and she noticed. She looked at me, and shook her head. "Say it isn't so."

I couldn't look at her and I began to stammer, "Mother...I..."

She gave me a sad smile and said, "I won't say anything. I am sure that you realize the enormity of the situation. Tell me what was the father's reaction...you have told him, haven't you?"

I shook my head, no.

"Why in God's name haven't you told him?"

"I just took one of those early tests today."

Her face softened and she smiled. "Not one of your best of days, is it?"

Tears started to run down my face and I answered, "It is the most wonderful day of my life."

Mother Belinda got up and came and sat in the chair next to me and put her arms around me. "That's the best answer I could have expected."

"You love this child and you love the father. But, now I am going to ask you to do something very difficult. You realize that you can just leave and go off to your new life. But I am going to ask you to follow our tradition. I want you to take the retreat. To go into cloister and spend the next month in prayer and meditation."

"Now, you realize that you don't have to do it, but I would ask that you do. I have found that those sisters that take the retreat have an easier time with their decision. You won't be pressured one way or the other. But, it won't be easy. You will be incommunicado, you will not contact anyone outside of the Order, except for your immediate family."

"I guess that in your case that would be your mother; but, no one else. It will be difficult for you and it will be difficult for him. But, if your love for each other is as strong as you believe, it will survive and I have found it will be stronger after this trial."

"It will start immediately, you will be transferred to our convent in Cincinnati. Only the Superior will know the reason for your transfer. You will only be allowed to have your mother visit once. And that time will be limited."

"I realize that this may seem very harsh, but it will be only for a month and then we will have a tribunal, where you will make your final decision. Again, I want you to know that this is voluntary. You will be free to leave now or at any time during the retreat."

I sat and listened to what she had to say. If I took the retreat, I wouldn't be able to talk to Zack. He would have no idea what was going on. I knew that he would suffer, he would worry, question.

I also felt a duty to the Order. I believed that there would be no question as to what I would do. But, I decided that I would do what the Order requested, I would go into cloister and take the retreat.

I looked at her and said, "I will go to Cincinnati."

Mother Belinda smiled and said, "I hoped that you would. Now go, you will be silent at four thirty, however, you will not speak to anyone outside of the order until then. You will become totally cloistered in one hour. Talk to Rose, it will be easier on both of you."

I left her office and went to my cell. Rose was there in a flash. "Tell me, what happened."

I told her and said that I would be going to Cincinnati in the morning. She helped me pack. At four o'clock, there was a knock on the door and Sr. Alice was standing there. She is a medical doctor in family practice. She is the director of the Free Clinic in the city.

Alice smiled and said, "Mother Belinda sent me to check you out. She is concerned." She gave Rose a look and said, "Rose dear, could you give us a few moments..."

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