After all of the relatives had left, Uncle summoned me again to discuss my future. Dutifully, I went.
“Morgan, you’ve been here for the last four years,” he said heavily. “You’re more than old enough to marry, and I refuse to let you chose to have that go to waste while you stay here to be a companion to my twins.”
“Uncle, as I told you three years ago,” I began quietly, striving to keep my voice even and respectful. “Marriage is not for me.”
“Don’t be silly,” he said brusquely. “You are a woman of childbearing age. You do not have any illnesses that would prevent you from having children. Therefore, as you are able to marry, you will.”
“But, Uncle, I have no dowry,” I said. “No man will want me-”
“If you marry Devin, there is no need for a dowry,” he said as Aunt Mary slipped into the room. I was stunned. “Devin has finished his training, and is now ready for a wife.”
Over the years I had come to respect Devin as an older brother, but the thought of marrying him was one of the most repulsive ideas that I had ever heard.
“It is a woman’s duty,” Aunt Mary reminded me. I cringed inwardly.
“Uncle, marriage is not for me,” I said. “I would rather follow the holy path of a nun.”
“Morgan, don’t be a fool,” my Uncle roared. Aunt Mary, on the other hand, lit up. “Marriage is a holy institution, too. I tell you, you will follow that holy path.”
“Aunt Mary, please,” I said, turning to appeal to her. “I want to serve God, and I could do that so much more effectively in an abbey.”
“Of course, child,” she said warmly. “I will make sure that you can do so.”
“For the love of-” Uncle began, and then quickly changed his mind mid-sentence as Aunt Mary shot him a fierce look. “We all have to do things that we don’t want to do, Morgan.”
“I know, Uncle,” I said quietly. He had no idea just how well I knew that.
“Morgan, you are dismissed,” my aunt said. “We can finish this discussion later.”
“Yes, Aunt Mary,” I said, curtsying before I turned to leave.
“Mary, what the he-” Uncle began, livid. I cringed as I heard her hitting him, cutting off his profanities. Quietly I pulled the door closed behind me and made myself scarce.
It was a week before Uncle summoned me again. I could tell that he was extremely unhappy about the arrangement, but whatever Aunt Mary had said or done had intimidated him badly enough that he’d given in.
“Prepare yourself,” Uncle said. “At the end of this harvest we will take you to the abbey. Your things may stay here, while you are there.”
“Thank you, Uncle,” I said with a curtsy.
“We will take care of them until you die,” Aunt Mary said helpfully. I nodded, grimly aware that I would be giving my entire life to the service of God. I would be able to start fresh, separated from my current troubles.
I spent the next couple of weeks packing my things into my mother’s trunk. My clothing would be given to the poor upon my entry to the convent, which was fine with me, but I couldn’t bring myself to give away my mother’s trunk.
Finally it was time, and Uncle took me to the nearest abbey, which was about a day’s ride away. The journey was a silent one, and I let my mind wander in several different directions.
There was so much that I wouldn’t see or hear of- Kellan’s child, how Leslie and Gavin’s marriage would work out, my other cousins marriages, and then the births and deaths of family members- it almost hurt to think of all of it. Then I shook myself and focused on my future.
If not the nunnery, then some unhappy and loveless marriage, in which I am forced to keep the horse in order and have babies that I don’t even want. I thought glumly. My horse whinnied, almost sounding like it was concerned about me. I rubbed its neck, smiling slightly.
“Are you sure that this is what you want for your life, Morgan?” my Uncle asked as we approached the gates. I glanced at him, swallowing my doubts quickly.
“Yes,” I said, as the gates opened. We rode into the courtyard, and dismounted. A boy of no more than ten took our horses and led them into a stable as several nuns came to meet us.
“How many we help you, travelers?” one of them said as I dusted myself off.
“My name is Sir Cadman of Brittany,” he said, bowing to them stiffly. “I wrote to the Abbess about my niece, and her desire to join your holy order.”
“I’ve been expecting you,” the nun said, smiling warmly at me. “I am the Abbess, and it is my pleasure to welcome you, dear.”
“The pleasure is all mine, Mother,” I said, curtsying. The nun clicked her tongue as I rose.
“There is little use for such formalities here,” she said. “Now, I expect that you are hungry and tired from your travels, and the evening is already rather cool. Sisters Hannah and Agnes will show you to your rooms, and you may relax until Vespers. Someone will come to fetch you for the service.”
“Of course, Mother,” Uncle said, bowing slightly before following the two nuns that had accompanied the Reverend Mother to greet us.
“Child,” the Abbess called to me. I turned, ready to hear what she said. “You will take your vows an hour before Matins, tomorrow.”
“Of course,” I murmured demurely as she waved a hand to dismiss me. I then hurried after my uncle and our guides, who where halfway across the courtyard already.
The evening passed slowly, and Vespers finally came. The nuns that had shown us to our rooms reappeared to lead us to the chapel.
I won’t bother you with the boring details of that last evening. It was a long one, and I was grateful to finally drift off into a restless sleep.
The bells that told tolled the hour woke me, coupled with the sounds on several voices and the early morning light. I dressed myself, feeling torn between a grief as I mourned my freedom and the relief from the burden of my duty being lifted from my shoulders.
Uncle came with me as I was escorted to the Abbess’s office, and he sat silently as I took my vows. He didn’t move as I was presented with my novice’s robes, nor as I was removed to a private room to change.
I don’t know where my simple green wool gown had gone after I took it off, but an elderly nun swept away with it. Two middle aged nuns helped me fasten my wimple, and they beamed as they returned me to the office.
“God bless you,” murmured the one. I smiled gratefully at her, trying to hide my uncertainty of what would happen next.
As it so happened, I didn’t have to wait long to find out. Uncle bid me adieu and another woman was waiting to escort me on a tour of the abbey.
I was to share a room with the other novices, of which there were seven. I had no objection with that, and it turned out that my schedule was identical to theirs.
First I would have a two hour reflection time, during which I was permitted to read and/or memorize the Holy Scriptures, pray, or meditate upon the Bible. From there I would partake of a small but healthy breakfast, attend Matins, and then work at chores until time for the noonday Mass. A lunch followed that for half of the sisters, while the other half was to spend their time either copying out the Scriptures for the local churches or to have another time of reflection if they couldn’t write.
This would carry on throughout the hottest part of the day, with the two groups switching halfway through. When the weather had cooled, the sisters would return to the chores they had been assigned until Vespers. After Vespers there was a quick supper, and then another period of reflection before bed time.
As a novice, I would be rotated through the varying chores, to find out where I would serve the most effectively. I would be under constant supervision until the Reverend Mother had decided that I was worthy of becoming a full-fledged nun.
My first day was a blur of information and names, and by the time I collapsed into my bed, I was exhausted. Within moments of lights out, I was fast asleep.