A seal upon your heart, p.8
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       A Seal Upon Your Heart, p.8

           Pepper Pace
 

  He hoped that woman hadn’t compromised any of his clients in an attempt to discredit Jane. If she had then there would be hell to pay and he would press charges to the fullest extent of the law…and he knew of ways to make the fullest extent even fuller!

  Jane came in and he quickly printed up some items that he would need to prepare for tomorrow’s partners meeting, and then he got up and gave her his seat. She gave him a shy look.

  “Thank you.”

  “Just tell me what systems you need and I’ll log in to them.” The two worked quietly together; Jane’s steady typing a comforting backdrop. Tim almost forgot…well it was like Corrine was there. He glanced out the window and saw the rain pouring down. It wasn’t letting up and it was nearly time to leave. He thought about Jane’s shoes squeaking and her taking two buses to get home. That was just ridiculous! She’d be like a drowned rat within minutes of being out in this weather!

  “You can finish up tomorrow. Are you ready to go? Because I’m leaving and I can just take you home.”

  Her mouth opened and formed a little O. She glanced out the window and her brow went up at the relentless rain. “It’s coming down pretty hard. If it’s no trouble, I’d appreciate it,” was her whispered response.

  “Not at all.”

  She pressed save and logged out. She stood and stretched, then slipped her stockinged feet into her shoes. Tim hadn’t even realized that she had gotten comfortable enough to take them off. He watched her, barely realizing that he was watching her every move. She was so tall and graceful. The line of her neck was just like a ballerina’s. She didn’t wear a stitch of makeup but her face was perfect; even her dark brown lips didn’t need a bit of red, and her brown eyes were lined in the blackest of lashes, her brow arched perfectly…

  Tim blinked and looked away before she caught him staring and thought he was a pervert. “Um…I was going to eat dinner. Feel free to join me.” He looked embarrassed. “You can help me celebrate winning my case.”

  “Oh you won!” She exclaimed happily.

  “I suppose you can say that, although my client will be spending several years behind bars. Strange victory but it’s what he hired me for. So is that a yes?”

  Jane didn’t know how comfortable she would be eating dinner with Tim…but she was his assistant and she had better learn to get comfortable with him quick. They would be working closely together.

  “Yes, thank you.” They put on their coats and headed out the office together.

  “Where would you like to eat?” He asked once they were in the building’s garage.

  Her mouth dropped. “Oh…I wouldn’t know…”

  He used his key to disengage the locks on his Cadillac. Some liked their sports cars but he was still a Cadillac kind of man. “What do you like to eat?” He opened the door for her.

  “I…You decide. I like everything.”

  Tim chuckled. That could not be true. He should test her on that…but maybe some other time. He wanted a big juicy steak and he knew just the place.

  “Steak it is.”

  Jane settled into the nice leather seat of Tim’s car then buckled herself in. She found herself peeking at him as they drove. She noted that he had developed a five o’clock shadow and it brought his professional and polished look more down to earth. She liked seeing him with his tie loosened and his jacket off. But she actually liked the way he looked dressed perfectly for court, too. She knew nothing about men’s suits, only that his big muscular body looked great in them. Even sitting, she could see the way the fine material stretched over his big thighs.

  She felt a tingly sensation in her belly and quickly turned to look out at the passing scenery. They arrived at a place called Nicks Chops and Chasers. The restaurant was built like a stone cottage and as soon as they got out of the car, Jane could smell the roasting meats. Her stomach began to growl and she glanced at Tim to see if he’d heard. If he did he didn’t show it as he led her into the nice restaurant. She hoped her shoes wouldn’t start squeaking any louder as they hurried through the rain.

  Once inside a host greeted them and then whisked them into the crowded main room. There was a huge fireplace and Jane was thoroughly impressed. They were seated at a small table near the fireplace and she was happy for the added warmth.

  “I hope you like steak. They serve the best aged beef I’ve ever had.”

  She nodded. “I’ve never had steak.”

  He gave her a confused look. “Never?”

  “We have roast beef but never steak.”

  He thought of something appropriate to say. “Well…I’m sure that Nick’s is the best introduction to steak that you could ever have.”

  “Thank you for inviting me.”

  “No, thank you.” He decided not to say that he would have never had the guts to come here without someone. He still hadn’t gotten used to eating alone in public. A waitress came and took their drink orders. Tim had a beer and Jane had raspberry lemonade. Then he spent a few minutes helping her decide what cut of steak she might like. She settled on a ribeye while he went for the porterhouse. She wasn’t sure how she preferred it cooked so to be on the safe side he had them make hers medium well. He himself preferred medium and he made sure they brought all of the trimmings.

  Jane was staring in shock at the prices. Her steak would cost $29! Tim’s was nearly twice that. Then add in their sides—which was not included in the price and their drinks and this meal would end up costing him more than she’d ever held at one time in her hands. The sisters only gave her $30 a week and she never had more than a dollar left over from it by the beginning of the next week.

  After the food was ordered, it got quiet and Tim cleared his throat. “So, you live with nuns?”

  “Yes.”

  “What’s that like?” Everybody asked that question.

  “Well,” she smiled. “I don’t know what it would be like NOT to live with nuns.”

  He nodded. That made sense. “How long have you lived there?”

  “Since I was six.”

  And before that was Rwanda. He didn’t mention that. “Are you going to become a nun?”

  “No!” She almost shouted that out and Tim chuckled. She grinned. He had a wonderful sounding laugh. “I love the sisters, but they aren’t always the easiest people to live with.”

  “I can imagine. Do they hit you over the knuckles with rulers?” He was only half kidding.

  “No. But they give you an 8:00 curfew even if you’re an adult. And the food is…not very good. No one really knows how to cook. It’s not what people think. Nuns are just like everyone else. They don’t walk around talking about god all of the time or reading scripture. Most of them live in apartments and not in convents.”

  “I didn’t know that.”

  “Yes. Bartholoma is more old-fashioned because we do have the majority of the sister’s living on campus. There are very strict rules.”

  “Strict? More strict than being home by 8:00?” That seemed unfathomable to him.

  “Oh yes. No makeup, no secular music, no boys, no books unless they are from the reading list or assigned by a teacher-”

  “These are rules even for an adult such as yourself?”

  She sighed. “I’m actually not supposed to be living on campus. I graduated college just a short while ago and I’m expected to leave St. Bartholoma.”

  He mulled that information over. She was obviously smart, he knew that even before this revelation. “Congratulations on graduating. What did you study?”

  She wanted to go for Liberal Arts but Bartholoma wouldn’t fund that. “I have a degree in early childhood education and theology.”

  “Okay. So you want to teach religion to children?”

  “No.” She shook her head adamantly. “I just wanted to go to school.” Any school that was outside of St. Bartholoma.

  Tim cocked his head. “It sounds like a good thing that you won’t be living at that convent.”

  She twisted her lip. “That’s
why Sister Louise helped me to get this job. I was told that I’d have to leave unless I became a nun. They allowed me to stay as long as I went to school and helped out, but now…”

  Tim thought that she should be thankful that she was asked to leave. The place sounded like it was right out of the middle ages.

  “So where are you going to live?”

  “I have to have money first.”

  “Damn…Oh sorry! I meant darn!” He didn’t mean to curse and he’d have to learn to watch his language around her. His cheeks turned red.

  Jane laughed. “I don’t mind if you say damn. Guess what? Nuns say it too.”

  “They do?” He leaned forward. “Are they allowed to curse?”

  “No. But they do all kinds of things that they aren’t allowed to.” He looked confused.

  “Like what?”

  She just grinned.

  “You’re not going to say?”

  “I took a vow. No one is allowed to speak a word about their ways outside of the convent.” He gave her a shocked look before noticing her mischievous grin.

  “Are you just pulling my leg?” He was surprised by her sense of humor, and pleased by the unexpectedness of it.

  Jane covered her mouth and tried not to laugh out loud. “I hope you don’t mind, Tim, but the look on your face was priceless!” She gave in to her laughter and he finally joined her. “They’re just like everyone else, really they are.” She spent the next few minutes talking about the nuns and her favorites like Sister Callista. Then the steak came and she took a few moments to just stare at the beauty of it.

  “Okay, so why haven’t you ever eaten steak before?”

  “Well, the thing that really isn’t a myth is the vow of poverty. You must give up all of your money to become a nun and so any extra spending cash is very tight. We have funding for certain things, vouchers for lunch for the girls, and clothes. But we survive on donations.” Tim became thoughtful. Had he even given to any of the charities this year? Corrine always took care of those things.

  They became quiet as they ate. Jane found the meat to be delicious. She eyed Tim’s huge steak and thought it would be a miracle if he ate that entire thing.

  It was a miracle because he ate every scrap. And she did as well. There was no room for desert and it was getting late. Jane asked the time and when he told her it was nearly 7:30 she became anxious. He quickly paid the check and they dashed through the heavy rain for the car.

  “What happens if you miss curfew?”

  “Well, you aren’t allowed in. You have to wait until the doors open again in the morning.”

  “Well that’s stupid. What if there’s an emergency, an accident, a flat tire?”

  “It’s considered discipline. By leaving you take on the consequences that you might not be able to get back in.” That had been drilled into each nun from the time that she could remember. Nuns had been locked out before and they always had a good reason for missing curfew. But there were no exceptions made.

  Tim drove a little faster. He wasn’t quite sure where the school was and Jane wasn’t very good with the directions but he managed to get her home safely and soundly with seven minutes to spare.

  “Thank you Tim. See you tomorrow!” She yelled over her shoulder as she slammed the car door shut and hurried through the rain to the large foreboding building. He watched her until she was safely inside. He could see even through the bad weather that her hair was soaking wet and rain droplets clung to her dark skin. He had a strange urge to rub her dry with one of his huge terry cloth towels and strip her wet clothing off her trembling body.

  He chuckled uneasily to himself. He hadn’t had a Catholic school girl fantasy in years and he didn’t want to start them now. He drove home and instead of opening a beer he changed into athletic clothes and hit the treadmill. His knee creaked and his lungs burned and he was dripping in sweat within a mere ten minutes but he hung in there. Tomorrow it would hurt again, and the day after and maybe even the day after that. But soon it would get better. Isn’t that what everybody always said?

  CHAPTER 11

  Sister Louise gave Jane a stern look as she met the soaking wet girl in the entrance. “We need to have a talk Jane. Please come to my office.”

  Jane pursed her lips nervously and followed the sister to the office. She didn’t sit, she never did unless she was invited to. “Yes, Sister? Did I do something wrong?”

  “Jane, you’ve really been cutting curfew close lately-”

  “I’m sorry Sister. Mr. Singleton and I-”

  Sister Louise held up her hand and closed her eyes. “The reasons aren’t important. The frequency of it is.” Jane bit her lip. “The rules are in place for a reason-”

  “But I’ve never missed curfew, ever-”

  “Jane, let me finish! Please.” Sister cleared her throat as Jane tensed. “The rules I’m referring to are the rules against bringing the outside influences into the school.” She reached into her drawer and withdrew Jane’s books and the Blood Diamond CD, which was merely African music.

  Jane gasped and reached for the items, snatching them and holding them protectively against her chest. “You had no right! These are mine!”

  “But they are in GOD’S house. So it is you that have no right! You don’t bring the world into god’s house, Jane. You know that.”

  Her face twisted into one of frustration. “They are just books! And they are books of poetry! In my hands are,” She pulled them up one by one to show the sister, “The Complete Works of Emily Dickinson, The Complete Collective Poems of Maya Angelou, Robert Frost-”

  Sister Louise was shaking her head. “But it’s not allowed, child. I’m not trying to tell you that anything in your hand is bad. I’m trying to tell you that you broke the rules because you rationalized to yourself that because it wasn’t ‘bad’ it was okay. It is NOT okay, Jane! There are rules in place for a reason.”

  Jane clutched her books and swallowed back frustrated tears. “Then they are bad rules.”

  “Child…that is just a sign that it is time for you to leave.” Jane looked at her quickly and the first tear dropped from her eyes. “If every girl brought their idea of ‘right’ into the school then the lines would blur. When you come and you go you make the girls…”

  Jane held her breath.

  “You make them restless.”

  “I…I don’t want to go.” She finally said and hot tears splashed from her eyes as she hugged her books.

  “You have to. This is not a healthy place for you anymore.”

  Jane’s stomach began to hurt and she became lightheaded. “Where am I supposed to go?”

  “Sister Nicolette said that you can stay with her until you find an apartment. There are also half-way houses-”

  Jane’s vision blurred as the first sobs came.

  “She’s waiting to take you home with her now.”

  “Now?”

  “Yes, Jane it’s for the best.” Sister Louise withdrew a large manila folder and slid it across the desk. “These are your documents.” Jane reached for them and clutched them as well. “Jane, I’m so sorry-”

  “My name is not JANE!”

  Sister Louise stood up and reached out a hand to her. “Child-”

  “Do you even know my name?!”

  Sister Louise allowed her hand to lower and her brow gathered. “Martier Nufaika Besigye. I’ve never forgotten your name, or the name of any child here.”

  “Then why did you give me a name that had no history?!”

  Sister Louise’s eyes glistened. “I have 47 young girls to care for. 47. They have no family, or their family left them behind. They are abused, starving, mentally disturbed. All I know to do is…to put those girls in the hands of God.”

  Martier wiped her eyes. She would never go by the other name again. She gave Sister Louise one last look. “You were our God.” Then she left.

  ~***~

  Tim felt good again this morning. He whistled as he walked down the corridor
, despite the fact that his hamstrings were wire tight and there was a bit of a twinge in his knee.

  “Good morning Jane.” She looked up quickly and gave him a strange look.

  “Could you please not call me Jane anymore?”

  “What?” There was something different about her. Then he realized that it was her eyes. It was as if someone had turned the light off in them. Also the smile that he had become accustomed to seeing was no longer present.

  “Jane, come into my office, please.” He waited for her to rise then he led her into the office and shut the door. “ Sit down.” She did as he asked. He hung up his coat, not taking his eyes from her. Was she wearing the same clothes from yesterday? The bottom of her skirt was a bit dark from yesterday’s rain where her rain coat hadn’t quite reached. What the hell…?

 
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