Chapter 9 - The Real Reason

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The nuns at the Sisters of the Divine Heart convent reside in a southwestern-style mansion that backs up to foothills. Sparse ponderosa pine trees and sagebrush spread across the dry grassy land. The adobe exterior is painted a traditional terracotta and logs stained a dark brown, dot across the full length above each of the two floors.

We approach a large hand-carved door with black metal hinges. Pete rings the doorbell and a mix of chimes play for several seconds.

A nun in a dark gray turtleneck and pants, topped with an oversized light gray sweater opens the door. Her short veil is another shade of gray. She's been cursed with the largest nose I've ever seen on a woman, but her face is bright and cheerful. She's young for my image of a nun, maybe thirty.

She gives Pete a hug. "You're early."

"Sister Francis, it's been a few months." I get the feeling Pete comes here frequently and that they like him.

"Yes, I just returned from Africa." She looks at me and smiles.

I instantly feel guilty. Nuns have always had that sort of effect on me, like my teachers growing up. Most treated me like the class bad boy. I wonder, did any of them know who I am?

"Is this who I think he is?" She takes my hand and holds it as if I'm a little boy. "You're certainly shorter than I expected."

Shorter? Something I've never heard.

"Yes, this is Barry," Pete says. "Father Timothy expects us, but not for a few hours. It's important we see him now."

"Shouldn't be a problem. He's in Mother Superior's office. Follow me." She keeps a hold of my hand and leads us farther into the bright yellow entryway, under a black iron chandelier adorned with candles that are still in use. We walk between grand staircases with ornate railings and down a long hallway lined with paintings of the Mother Superiors who have run this place.

"Where is everyone," Pete asks. "It's so quiet."

"Training." she says. "Getting ready to fight evil." There's a bounce in her step, as if she's excited about a potential war with my father. "All the sisters are excited to meet you, Barry. We've been talking about you for days. You're a very special man who can end the horrors brought on by your father with each of his escapes."

At the end of the hallway, we face a large wooden door with a carving of the Holy Mother. I have an uneasy feeling, knowing Father Timothy is behind the door. For the past twenty-one years, he's watched over Mom and me. During my years in school, he was my mentor and encouraged me to resist temptation. What will he say about the things I've done the last few days?

Sister Theresa knocks three times then opens the door. We follow her into the room that looks like a library. She pats my hand, lets it go, and turns to leave.

Father Timothy's seated behind a carved wooden desk. He stands and rushes to usher us to a circle of leather armchairs beside an adobe fireplace. "Sit down. Sit down." Other than losing most of his black hair over the years, Father Timothy looks young for his fifty something years. As usual, he's wearing jeans and sandals and a solid black t-shirt. While he dresses traditionally at church service, he somehow got away with dressing liberally at school, where he counsels the difficult students. "Barry, while it's wonderful to see you both, I'm afraid I can't tell you I'm happy to hear about your circumstances." He turns to Pete. "But we all knew this day would come, didn't we?"

We all settle in our seats, and after a long pause, Father Timothy asks, "What bring you here so early? I wasn't expecting to see you until one."

Pete leans forward. "Things are moving faster than expected."

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