A Story by Terry Collett

A nun and her memories of her mother.


The rosary feels light between her fingers. Sister James rubs the black wooden beads as if a thousands prayers could be brought back into being. Smooth. The touch of the thumb rubbing over the beads. Many Aves and Pater Nosters have been worked in here she muses lifting her eyes to the light coming through the window. The sunlight makes patterns on the wooden floorboards. The smell of flowers filters in from the open window; sounds of birdsong are all she can hear. She closes her eyes. If I had a penny for each prayer I’d be a millionaire she muses, sniffing the room, sensing the polish, the soap scrubbed hands, the starch in the black habit. She can feel the hard floor beneath her knees. She moves them. Brings them touching. Knee on knee side by side. She sits on her heels. Rests there. Mother had taught her how to pray. Hours on hour as a little girl sitting on her heels, repeating the prayers her mother taught, a slap on the hand if she got it wrong. Mother would carry her rosary around with her tucked in the belt around her waist. It would hang there, dark brown and heavy, the Crucified going back and forth as she walked. Sister James opens her eyes, gets up, and rubs her knees with her right hand. The rosary hands from her left, the Christ well rubbed shines in the sunlight. She walks to the window and peers out into the cloister garth. Sister Bede is weeding the flowerbeds. Sunlight blesses her head. Her hands move amongst flowers, dragging out weeds and pushing them into a pile by her legs. Mother could say the Pater Noster so fast it seemed like a  spell. Her mother’s dark eyes peered across at her if she made mistake or uttered a wrong word in the prayers or readings from the Bible. A smack on the back of her leg with a wet hand stung for ages after. Making mistakes in prayers shows the Devil’s at work, she’d say. Sister James watches as Sister Bede rubs her hands to removed damp soil. She wipes her brow. Slight sweat clinging. She sits back on her heels and looks at the sky. Birds fly near by. The mulberry tree is full of fruit. Teatime on hot days the sisters have their afternoon tea in the cloister garth, gathering around the trolley with cups and saucers and slices of cake and biscuits and chattering briefly before the bell tolled again. Mother’s hands were cold and thin. When she held the hand or slapped the leg, they warmed. Always remember your prayers, Mother said. Beware of young men and their thoughts and deeds and do not allow them to touch. Since Father had left she knew nothing of men knew nothing of their ways or thoughts or deeds and only Edward had touched her once briefly after mass and her mother never saw so that didn’t count. She leans forward out of the window and sees Sister Leo at her window looking out at Sister Bede. An audience. Two sisters peering at one weeding. She steps away from the window and walks to the bed and peers at the Christ hanging from the huge cross on the wall. Not a speck of dust there. Not a sign of spider’s webs or dirt. Mother had one like this in her room hanging above her bed. Cobwebs hung there; dust and dirt. The Crucified peering out with heavy eyes. Mother sometimes dragged her there and forced her to kneel. Tell the Lord what you’ve done, go on tell Him all your sins, relate to your Saviour how you deserve Hell, Mother would yell, gripping the arm, bending down the head. Sister James reaches out and touches the crown of thorns, the nails seem so real. No dust or dirt. She rubs the thorns. Mother related the five wounds: the crown of thorns, the nails in hand and feet and the wound in His side. See, Mother would say, there look, and she’d take the small hand and trust it into the slit made in the plaster Christ. Each time you are bad and sin, you push the nails and thorns in deeper, Mother would bellow, holding the small finger and pushing it on to the nails in hands and feet of the Christ. Once the finger bled where she’d pushed so hard. Sister James rubs the nails in hands and feet of the Christ on the crucifix on the wall. She hasn’t seen her mother since her last visit to the asylum seven years before. Never spoke; just stared and muttered and rubbed at a rosary between her thin fingers. Dark rings around her eyes through lack of sleep. Sister James kisses her fingertips and places the kiss on the five wounds of Christ. His bride loves Him. She loves as He loves, not to be loved, but to love, even if love is not returned, even if the object of that love seems so unlovable, love must still love, and that is the love she loves her mother with, the love without strings or conditions or limitations and as she smiles at her Christ she recalls her mother’s last hard stare as she left her there at the asylum with a staleness in the air and her mother’s prayer like distant unforgiving hum.

© 2010 Terry Collett

My Review

Would you like to review this Story?
Login | Register

Request Read Request
Add to Library My Library
Subscribe Subscribe


Added on May 25, 2010
Last Updated on May 25, 2010


Terry Collett
Terry Collett

United Kingdom

Terry Collett has been writing since 1971 and published on and off since 1972. He has written poems, plays, and short stories. He is married with eight children and eight grandchildren. on January 27t.. more..