One warm May afternoon I was heading home from hospital after an MRI scan – I’d suffered amnesia following an accident and could barely remember who I was. Passing St. Luke’s Convent, I took a short cut through the adjoining park, passing along a walkway bounded by burgeoning shrubs to a fountain, sparkling amongst pink rosebushes. A statue of Pan stood nearby. I enjoyed the gentle sound of water. Then, something black loomed, I looked up and saw two nuns. Their countenances were grim and masculine. I smiled and said, “this fountain’s so pretty, isn’t it?”
Silently they circled around either side of it and grasped me forcefully by the elbows. “There you are Sister!” one said. “You aren’t supposed to be up and about yet, you know!”
“And in ‘civvies’ too!” the other one said disapprovingly.
“What are you on about? Let me go!”
“Come on Sister Ursula, it’s back to St. Luke’s with you!”
Their firm, pinching grip, just above my elbows, made my arms numb and it seemed easier to acquiesce, with the idea of remonstrating to the Mother Superior and getting these two ‘monkeys’ a severe reprimand.
Later, I reflected on the day’s events. Ignoring my protests, the nuns had brought me to the convent. They’d ushered me down a long white corridor with a vaulted ceiling and crucifixes on the walls at intervals. A recess held a vase of pungent white lilies. It all seemed strangely familiar.
They’d promised to take me to the Mother Superior but they’d lied. Thankfully they’d at least let go of my elbows; my arms felt like they would never have feeling in them again.
“There’s a bible in the draw and a bathroom through that door,” one said.
I stood there, shocked and outraged. I heard a key turn. I was a prisoner!
Subsequently a different nun brought a silver tray with sandwiches and a blue china pot of tea. One of the original two stood in the doorway, blocking escape. The new nun was friendlier. “Hello Sister Ursula.” She smiled. “It’s good to have you back.”
“My name is Susan Brown. This is all a ridiculous mistake!”
“Of course it is.” She winked at me. “You just rest. Reverend Mother and a doctor will see you in the morning.”
“Morning! What are you on about, I have to get home!”
“Don’t worry, everything’s taken care of. Just rest.”
I ate ravenously and showered. Then I lay in bed feeling quite tired. I took out the bible, noticing an inscription – ‘Ursula Smith March 2014’.
Ursula, Ursula… suddenly memories flooded back – I can remember! My twin sister Ursula had come to this convent, left her husband and two little girls to ‘receive Christ.’
We’d all been shocked of course and I’d visited her here to remonstrate. Recently she’d had a sudden illness and been rushed to hospital…
Someone knocked. “Time for ‘Night Prayer’ Sister!”
“Look, I need to tell you something important. It’s urgent!”
“All in good time Sister Ursula…”