On Labour Day week end a group of us decided to take a road trip to the Niagara region to tour a few wineries. The day was warm, cloudy and humid. Rain had been forecast. It’s about a two hour drive and on the way to wine country we stopped at a few fruit stands on the road. We came home loaded down with apples, oranges, and an assortment of berries.
We hit a couple of wineries, and then it was time for a break. The patio lunch was great with the seven of us talking, laughing and scarfing down the food, great cream of asparagus soup and a tasty chicken sandwich for me. I sat next to our friend who’s 15 going on 34. She’s one of my favourite people with a lively intelligence, a quick wit and a gorgeous face that features in some of my photos. I also had the opportunity to quiz her dad for some research for my WIP. I’m writing a book. I’ve got the page numbers done.
Fortified by food we visited a few more wineries. By this time I was getting bored. I don’t drink that much wine and the heaviness of the day found me dozing off on the short rides from one vineyard to the next. We agreed the next stop would be the last for the day. When we arrived, I decided to stay outside on the long covered entrance to take some more photos of the picturesque colourful scenery with the fall flowers still in bloom.
As we arrived I overheard a tourist declare, “I swear I returned it! I didn’t take that bottle! They didn’t have to search me and treat me like a thief!”
The rain that had been forecast started so most sightseers remained indoors. The roof covering the patio-like structure provided adequate shelter from the weather, which by this time was coming down in the proverbial cats and dogs.
As I was shooting an interesting wall at the end of the enclosure, a man approached.
“There’s an interesting story about that piece of wall.”
I turned toward him and looked up. He towered over me, his hair long just above his shoulders, and kinky curly giving the look of a bird’s nest. His lean frame was covered with jeans and a T shirt, nothing out of the ordinary. I had time to kill and knew the rest of the group wouldn’t be out for a while.
“I’m always interested in a good story.”
We leaned against the railing and he told his tale.
“Two hundred years ago a convent had been established on this site. The population consisted of about twenty, including older nuns and novices. One of the proselytes, Maria Theresa, was very young, aged 13. She was quiet, obedient and quite beautiful with a round face, big blue eyes and rosy cheeks. She was devoted in her prayers and took it upon herself to care for the older nuns in the house.”
He had a fine voice for story telling, not too loud or too low. I wondered if he practiced story telling as an avocation, but didn’t wish to interrupt him to ask. As the narrative unfolded his brown eyes became more animated and at the same time seemed to be reliving the events he spoke of. His body language relaxed and mirrored his words.
I was quite content listening to him, with the rain splashing on the cobblestones outside the enclosure as background music.
“This wall that so intrigues you carries a history. It was part of the original convent.”
I looked around. “Yes it would have been a good spot for a secluded cloister in the middle of nowhere; the tranquility would suit it well.”
“One night when everyone should have been sleeping, the Abbess, who had been up late praying for an ill sister, lifted herself from her knees and walked around double checking that all was well. She heard the jangling of her keys fastened at her waist, and she heard the creaking of her bones. She was elderly and kneeling aggravated her arthritis. But she thought she heard something else, sounds not normally heard. She sensed that these sounds came from the front of the building. A thunderstorm was in progress, the clouds as purple as ripe plums, the rain pelting down and the thunder ear splitting. But she still felt that she heard something not associated with any of those other ordinary sounds. She became confused. She didn’t know what she heard. Nevertheless, she was sure she heard something, in addition to all the sounds that she could identify.”
The story transfixed me and I didn’t notice, until later, that the water on the railing I leaned on soaked my hand.
We gazed with blank eyes at the rain falling in the present, which added to the visualization of the rain 200 years ago, causing the man’s words to become even more vivid. And the smell of the fields’ sodden earth in the past would have been the same as today.
“Lifting her skirts to prevent them from getting wet, she opened the wide, heavy, wooden door and peeked out. Just then a streak of lightening illuminated a novice in the corner, her white veil on the ground, her chestnut hair flowing down her back, locked in a man’s embrace.
‘Who goes there?’ The Mother Superior’s voice quavered with uncertainty.
Another flash of lightening revealed the young woman as Maria Theresa. The old nun could not believe her eyes that her most devout novice huddled within a man’s arms.
The Mother Superior shrieked in fear believing that the young girl was being ravaged by a vagrant and yelled to the man to flee. The sister, bewildered, observed that Maria Theresa did not resist the man’s advances and appeared to be pleasured by his kisses and caresses. The stranger raised his head, still embracing Maria Theresa, and bestowed one last kiss on her pink plump lips, then dashed down the steps into the storm. Maria Theresa stepped away from where he had stood, her eyes dazed with horror, and pressed herself into the wall. At the same time her shaking hand snaked out begging for the man’s return.
The man ran off leaving Maria Theresa to her fate.
The Mother Superior’s fury consumed her and with betrayal in her eyes, glared at the young girl, ‘You have dishonoured God, this convent, and me. Get out. Go to your man. Just go. You are no longer offered shelter here.’ The girl ran into the storm and has never been heard from again.”
As he spoke these last words, I could taste the Mother Superior’s betrayal in his mouth.
I turned, peered out into the rain which was letting up, and stared at the wall. It did feel as if it was telling me something.
Neither of us said anything
“No one knows what happened?” My voice felt hoarse.
“Well that’s an interesting tale but probably just that, a story.”
The man shrugged. “Believe what you will.” And he vanished just like the vagrant in his yarn.
My friends exited the winery and by this time the rain had let up to a drizzle. We gathered to walk to our cars and home.
As I was leaving I took one last look at the puddle formed by the rain near the wall.
A face stared back at me. The face of a young girl, eyes wide in terror, mouth open in a final scream.
Blogophilia 38.4 Topic: “I Swear I Returned It”
(Hard, 2pts): use a quote or paraphrase from Steven Wright
(Easy, 1pt): include the words apples and oranges