Life in the convent was solitary and quiet. The sisters walked the transept of the great church, their deep v cut dresses whispering along the stones as they walked. Every day, Wendy looked from behind the great pillars to see if her sister was one of them but knew that deep down Mother Rose’s words were true.
Her sister…the only friendly face she would have in the world…was exiled. Whatever that meant. She wiped her eyes and stepped back into the shadows, walking down the twisted stairs to her new quarters.
She had taken her sister’s place in the infirmary as the Convent Nurse, and despite not knowing the first thing about medicine, when they put her in the uniform, she suddenly found a wealth of knowledge in her mind about the four senses of humor and their effects on the body. In fact, it seemed that the very fibers of the uniform she wore were fusing with her body, giving this knowledge to her.
“What have I gotten myself into?” she asked the empty infirmary as she walked down the aisle of beds. She felt the tears come again but stopped them. There was no use crying. It would do her no good. And besides, she deserved this fate.
It was as Mother Rose had said, she was a selfish girl. Why couldn’t she have just let the natural order be?
“Because it’s wrong,” she said, slamming her fist against a silver tray on one of the bedside tables. The tray flipped through the air and landed with a crash. The crash rang through the empty infirmary and one of the beds at the far end bounced, accompanied by a strange whimper.
“Hello?” Wendy whispered. She inched her way over to the bed, not sure if she had made up the sound or not. There was no response, but she was sure she could hear breathing beneath the bed. She grabbed another tray from the table and wielded it like a club in one hand as she reached down and pulled up the covers.
A young woman, no more than a year or two younger than herself, screamed and hurried out from underneath the bed. She wore one of the pretty little dresses that Wendy herself might have worn when she had lived in the town proper—a brilliant navy style dress with a white collar, her airy bangs nearly covering her scared, green eyes.
“It’s alright,” Wendy said, trying to keep her calm. “ I’m not going to hurt you.”
The girl looked from her to the tray in her hand. Wendy put the tray down and showed that she meant her no harm.
“Please, trust me. I’m a nurse.”
“But you’re one of them.” the girl said. “One of the Sisters.”
“Not exactly,” Wendy said, sitting at the edge of the bed. “I haven’t taken my vows yet…honestly they haven’t asked me to.”
“But…” the girl looked confused, but her fright seemed to have abated. “But how can you be here if you aren’t…” Then something dawned on her face. “Unless you are…”
Then, quite suddenly, she rushed to Wendy and embraced her. The girl squeezed her so tightly that she would suffocate her.
“I knew you’d gotten away! I knew it! I just knew it!”
“Wait,” Wendy gasped, prying the girl off of her. “You know me?”
“Yes! You’re the reason I ran away! When I heard about how you ran away from the Doll Maker, a lot of us thought you were a hero!”
“Third borns!” The girl said. “Some of us actually saw what he was…saw you running down the street from our windows. And of course, when the sisters brought you back to your mother we assumed that—”
“Back to my…Oh…Willa!”
Wendy clutched at her heart and smiled.
“She’s alright then…she’s safe. Oh, thank—”
“Oh, miss,” the girl said. “I’m sorry but…”
The girl faltered. She seemed to have trouble continuing. But she swallowed and then drove the bad news home.
“When they brought you…or your sister back…she had been turned into a Doll.”
Wendy’s heart sank. It felt as if all of the light had gone out in her world. It would have been better if she hadn’t seen her sister at all than to have laid eyes upon her and then lose her again.
“It’s all my fault…” she said. “Oh, Willa…no…no…”
“But Miss,” the girl said. “You are here. You are here and well and when the others find out they will—”
“How did you get in here?” Wendy asked, spitting the words out. “You need to leave, now!”
“But Miss, I—”
Wendy grabbed hold of the girl’s collar and dragged her to the infirmary door. She opened it and let in the morning mist. She could see the three gates that allowed the citizens of the town access to the infirmary and pointed to them.
“Leave now. Whatever you are thinking of doing, don’t do it. You tell the girls I am dead. You tell them I am a Doll and that is the way of things. If you don’t, all those you love will suffer. Do you understand?”
The girl spat in her face.
“You were our hero. You gave us hope.”
“Well there is no hope,” Wendy said, wiping her face. “Now go back the way you came and—”
A voice called from inside the infirmary. Wendy looked back at the girl and shoved her backward, sending her to her rump.
“Leave, now!” she hissed, and then shut the door. She turned and found two sisters–Principals based on their black corset and long white sleeves and the small hat adorned with a red rose— waiting for her. The Principals were the constables of the Convent and despite their petite appearance, they were ruthless and not to be toyed with.
“Yes?” Wendy asked. “How can I—”
“Mother Rose says it is time for you to take your vows.” one of the Principals said. “Follow us please.”
Wendy swallowed hard and began to walk with them. But as she was about to reach the stairs, something caught her eye outside one of the open windows. The face of the girl in the navy dress, her bangs hanging just above her brilliant, determined, green eyes.
Let’s admire the dresses first.
Will Wendy take the vows? Will this girl with green eyes change the mind of Wendy?
To Be Continued.