Ryla looked up from her book and stared dreamily through the dark green branches to the sky above. A cool breezed blew across her and turned the pages of the Bible she was sharing with Chasity. The leaves of the tree rustled quietly as did the many bright flowers that were blooming around them.
“I never dreamed a garden could be so peaceful. Nor that I would come to love the Sabbath,” she said looking around her approvingly. Several other sisters had chosen the garden as the perfect place to spend their day of rest, and the sound of quiet singing drifted towards them from one corner.
Chasity dimpled. “Yes, when we’ve been worshiping and working, sometimes it is just a gift to be able to have nothing to do but worship.”
“You always seem to be able to say what I’m thinking, even when I can’t,” Ryla laughed.
“I know what else you were thinking, Angelique,” Chasity said.
“Although you love it here, you were thinking of home.”
Ryla was silent.
“You were, weren’t you?”
“Not of home so much, but more of my family.”
“Can you tell me about them?”
“There is Father, who is very wise and kind but sometimes has to do things he wishes he didn’t.”
“I think I saw him when you first came.”
“Probably. Then there is Mother. How do I describe her? Probably like a perfect rose.”
Chasity refrained from laughing and nodded instead. She knew full well that sometimes the best things are the hardest to describe.
“Then there is my brother,” she sighed involuntarily. “He can be somewhat headstrong, but I miss him anyway.”
This time Chasity did laugh. “I know what you mean.”
Ryla yawned as she watched the blue sky turn pink and golden. “What do we do tomorrow?”
“Let’s get to bed and soon enough you’ll see.”
Ryla woke the next morning to Chasity shaking her awake. The morning sunshine streamed through the window making little patches of light on the rough plank floor.
“Angelique! Wake up, its morning!”
She immediately sat up and yawned. Chasity already had her veil in place and one shoe tied. “Is it really?”
Her friend nodded and dimpled. “Hurry, or we’ll miss morning prayers.”
These words got her moving, and she hurried into her clothes. A few moments later, she breathlessly tied her shoes and linked arms with Chasity to composedly walk down the long hall to the chapel. Other sisters appeared from the doorways of their rooms and joined them in singing the chanting melody as they entered the chapel. Already the pews were almost full, and the girls found a place near to the back.
The music was unlike any Ryla had ever heard; but the words were rich in meaning, and the sisters’ voices blended together in beautiful harmony. Morning prayers left her with the feeling of being very close to God and very happy. She couldn’t help but hum the tune of one of the choruses as she followed Chasity to the eating hall.
“Chasity, Angelique,” the mother greeted them kindly. “You are some of the sisters chosen to go to town today.”
The girls exchanged smiles.
“Sister Phoebe is in charge of the sisters going to market; you will be in her care. The others will go with me to visit the sick.”
Chasity nodded respectfully, but Ryla had a sinking feeling in her stomach. “Mother Superior, may I speak to you privately?”
“Certainly, Angelique.” Chasity moved out of earshot.
“Do you think it will be all right for me to go to town? What if I am recognized?” Ryla looked up at the older woman with questioning eyes.
“Would we do anything that is not safe for you?”
The girl lowered her head. Why couldn’t she just trust as her father had told her to? “I’m sorry, I should not have questioned,” she said quietly.
“You are forgiven. Sister Phoebe knows a little of your story, and she will be sure to take good care of you. You also may have the opportunity to see some other children. She is going to visit her John and his parents today as she is one of the sisters preparing to marry.”
Ryla looked at her in surprise.
“Oh, I see, you don’t know how we are different from other orders,” the mother smiled. She began to walk along to get in line with those getting food from the stewing pots of porridge. “One thing that makes us quite different from the others is that we don’t believe becoming one of the sisters prohibits you from marriage. It does temporarily, of course, until you leave the convent.”
Ryla filled her bowl with porridge and did the same for the Mother.
“Thank you, Angelique. As I was saying, there are many ways to serve God, and marriage is certainly the most common calling. These walls,” she looked around them room, “were made for sisters who are not yet married or once were. There are also some that would never like to be. It is a place of protection for widows and orphans, and a place of community for those who would like to spend some of their time serving God in this way.”
“I am glad you are different from the other orders; for, when I read my Bible, which wasn’t very often,” the girl blushed, “it always bothered me how some seemed to say it was holier not to marry when the Bible said either way was good as long as it was in God’s will.”
The mother nodded. “Come now, we must eat before this becomes cold.”
Copyright 2015 Kate Willis
Is Angelique a good second name for Ryla?
Do you like the friendship between her and Chasity?
Do you agree with the Mother?
Let me know in the comments!