I took the car and drove up north. Why hadn't I done that before? I had been sent down south, so she must be up north. Luckily the order had only two places up there.
I did the tour of the old church at Leftholland and the rose garden and the herb garden and this garden and that garden. It was interesting, but she was not there.
The next day I went to the Garden Hospital. It was set in a large park, with many gardens and many gardening nuns, but not her. I needed a story to visit some non-existent patient inside the hospital to check the nursing nuns. But who was that?
There was a nun on a bench reading a book. “Hello, Sister Anna!” A great wave of something broke over me and I had to sit down.
“Hello! Hmm! Nobody has called me Sister Anna in years. Who are you? You must have been a child when I was last Sister Anna. Wait, I know who you are. You are, you are Moral. Your name is Moral.”
“Yes, I remember now, my name is Moral. You had a nickname for all of us, my name is Moral.”
“You told stories, very good stories and every story ended with the line:
and the moral of the story is... That's why your nickname was Moral. I must show you round the park, we are a gardening order, you know.”
She told me about every garden, until we reached the other side of the hospital where the cars were parked. I opened the door of the car. “Please get in!”
“It's wonderful, this is the seaside. I've never been to the seaside before.” We ate ice-creams. “It's wonderful, this is the seaside. I've never been to the seaside before.”
“Nothing wonderful happened to me as a child. I was sent from home to home. Every home was the same – dirty and miserable and the same awful carers and a new name. I had no mother and no father, but why had my childhood to be so awful?”
“Perhaps this is why I am here. I'm trying to get my childhood back.”
“Does getting your childhood back have anything to do with me, Moral?”
“Oh, yes! There was one good year when I was a kid. You were there. You were wonderful. You cared about us. You listened to us. You were the wonderful Sister Anna. And then the wonderful Xmas. Oh, yes, there was one wonderful short year...”
“Wonderful Xmas? No, I don't think so. If I remember right, you, Moral, were very ill. You nearly died. The doctor came every day. You were so weak, you could only drink a little electrolyte. It was not a nice time.”
“It was wonderful, you held me tight, you gave me sugar water, one day you gave me Cocoa Cola, you were the nearest thing to a mother, it was so wonderful.”
“It was a glass of warm water with a pinch of salt and two teaspoons of sugar. It was the only thing you could drink, it stopped you drying out. The Cocoa Cola was something special for you at Xmas, also an electrolyte.”
“I held you close when you slept to keep you warm. You were very weak, you were out of your mind, you told me stories, very strange stories, that you loved me, that you would marry me when you grew up. And of course that we would live happily ever after.”
I bought her some clothes and things, “for the holiday, of course” and we went to my hotel. She changed clothes in the bathroom, she looked so different in ordinary clothes, I put my arms around her, another wave.
“You must be hungry, let's go and eat something.” It had to be fish and chips sitting on the pier, “another part of your childhood?” We went to a pub, Anna had a small shandy and I too many.
I woke in the small hours, she was behind me, she had her arms around me, she was asleep, a little voice spoke to me.
You are in bed with a nun – you must be crazy. This is the woman you thought was your mother – you must be crazy. This is the woman you wanted to marry – you must be crazy. This is the woman you want to marry – you must be crazy. You are crazy.
We had kippers for breakfast. We walked to the old harbour, found a bench and watched the boats bobbing up and down. Perhaps it was high tide.
“Why did you have to go? I was taken to another home, down south, and told never to mention the name Sister Anna again. Why?”
“Not now. Maybe one day or perhaps not.”
The seaside is wonderful, we sat there and drank it all in. Another wave.
|Please come into my life, Anna.||I have been thinking for some time, Moral.|
|I still love you||I haven't been a nun for some time now,|
|just as I did as a kid.||at least not on the inside,|
|You may think me crazy||and now on the outside too.|
|and perhaps I am.||I am not a nun any more.|
|I am just a man.||I'm just a woman.|
|Anna, please come into my life.||Moral, please come into my life.|
And she kissed me.