by Lena Green
a sparkling rosé with a dash of something extra
St. Mary’s Convent had not expected to become victim to the Covid pandemic. They thought that with little contact with the outside world and with the protection afforded by the One Above, that they might be spared. But not so – for when Covid hit, it hit badly.
Feeling unwell, several sisters retreated to their rooms; the remaining less affected went about their duties feeling both depleted of energy and lacklustre of spirit.
The Mother Superior guarded the welfare of each and every sister, for some were elderly - and new recruits were scarce in coming.
However, with the passage of time and with the regular administration of paracetamol, the sisters recovered, and their pre-set daily life continued. Chores were undertaken, Matins and Vespers were sung, and prayers, numerous prayers, were offered.
Until, some two months later when once again the community was stricken. Stricken this time not by Covid, but by its variant, specifically, the B4 variant.
As opposed to the debilitating effects of Covid, B4 acted in quite the reverse. Instead, it provoked inordinate levels of physical energy, and a paranoid intensity of excitement from dawn till dusk.
As a result, the quiet harmony of the community was rent asunder. Sisters sang and danced noisily through the corridors. They were slap-dash in the execution of their duties. And worse still, they were, not only restless, but all too frequently ‘irreverent’ during Scriptures.
Such behaviours would usually lead to the reprimand of the Mother Superior - but not so - for she too was similarly, and happily, affected.
But as the days passed so this unaccustomed euphoria tired the sisters. Tired them to such an extent, that come the evening, they would be found sprawling shamelessly, in almost drunken repose across the chairs in the common room. Their tiredness incited a sense of freedom. Liberated by B4, their conversations opened as they drifted, from one topic to another.
In this spirit it was Sister Agnes who said, ‘I could murder a chocolate Hobnob!’ In response further cravings were voiced. Many and varied they were, until losing all restraint, Sister Rosina, forgetting others were present, indulged the crevasses of her former self, then with voice wistfully trailing, she said, ‘I would love to feel the warmth of a man’s arms around me again …. To make l… once more.’
Assembled eyes turned in her direction. Had they heard what they thought they had heard? Was she going to continue?
A poignant lull. A careful pause, before, ‘You mean, you’re not a virgin? enquired one of the older, more established sisters.
But before Sister Rosina could realise what she had said, so a barrage of questions.
‘What was it like?’ ‘How did it feel?’ ‘Was it like on the television?’ ‘Did he take his socks, off like they’re supposed to….?’
And thus, the sisters continued probing, questioning, fantasising, until as one they agreed, that they were all suddenly regretting the loss of that part of their lives they had vowed to quell.
Sister Marion, knowing that the brothers at the Priory were similarly affected by B4, cleared her throat. In a flippantly casual, almost throwaway manner, she wondered if their colleague brothers might be feeling, similarly …. err…um … frustrated … And further, if they did, might the sisters be able to help.
And so, it was decided that in the name of Christian fellowship, they would invite the brothers for a light evening supper. A night …. let’s just say … a night of whatever might come to pass.
The brothers arrived at 7.30 sharp. The meal, a somewhat more elaborate repast that the usual fare, was prepared, and several bottles of communion wine were made available to those (all) who might wish to partake.
Replenished of belly, by 9pm or so, the common room emptied as ‘couples’ made their teetering way to the spartan cloisters above. There on narrow beds with horse-hair mattresses, the wondrous deed was done - and accordingly, the bells of heaven rang out loud and clear!
By 10pm, the elated sisters, waved goodbye to the band of limping, worn-out brothers. And then, as per routine, they made their way to the chapel, for evensong, to give thanks for another day of God given life.
The following day, an ethereal cloud was seen to hang over the Convent. A cloud of prayer. A cloud of … ‘Heavenly Father, forgive me for I have sinned …. ‘Since by now the variant had retreated and life had returned to its prescribed routine.
However, disconcerted sister looked with both intrigue and embarrassment, at disconcerted sister.
Meanwhile Mother Superior, prudent as ever, decided that a week of silent reflection would take place. Seven days of no contact with the outside world - especially the press. A week of contemplation. A week of prayerful thanks to the One Above, that they had been released from the temptations occasioned by the B4 variant.