|Photo courtesy of Ceasa|
Cesca is working on her first novel and tells me that The Silent Hours, an Historical fiction novel is inspired by real events. She shares the first chapter with us......
1952, Abbey of Saint Cecilia, Landes, France
I can hear them talking in hushed voices through the grille in the door. Sister Marguerite has a distinctive southern accent and, even when she is trying to speak quietly, her words seem to echo off the thick stone of the corridor walls with an energy that she is often chastised for.
“She said something,” she insisted, pleading with her listener.
“Marguerite we have discussed this before...” the voice sighed.
I tilt my head a little to catch a glimpse of its owner, Sister Constance. Although her voice is strong and firm it does not fit her face. The woman seems to have aged twenty years in a fraction of that time. Her watery eyes are practically hidden in the folds of her face, her lips are thin and cracked. Even from this distance I can see the veins in her hands, the large blue lines protruding from her skin look like great rivers on a map of France.
“She was muttering something, I’m sure I heard some distinct words, I’m sure I heard her speak,” she persisted.
“Don’t excite yourself child,” said Sister Constance, “If the Lord has made this woman mute then it is not for us to question why, or try to change her predicament, we can only wait and...”
“But don’t you think, if we could make some progress, encourage and...” the younger nun trailed off as she caught sight of Sister Constance’s expression, “Forgive me for interrupting,” she said quietly, dropping her head.
“Get along Sister Marguerite,” Sister Constance said, not unkindly, “No more of this.”
“I... I... Yes, Sister Constance,” came the defeated reply, and with one last look back at me I watched her turn and walk away.
Sister Constance stayed there watching her go before looking through the grille at me lying in my bed. I looked off into the distance. Then making the sign of the cross at my door she turned away, her steady steps echoing rhythmically down the stone corridor to Vespers.
A mute I thought. Is that what I am? A nameless mute in a nunnery. It’s been this way for years. I close my eyes and pray the same prayer to whoever is listening, “God, make it black.” I open my eyes again and see the crucifix hanging on the wall opposite me. Jesus is staring at me and I stare back obstinately. He is always staring at me. God, make it black.
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