At the end of the week, I told the Abbess what I’d chosen. She’d nodded sadly, but did not try to dissuade me from it.
“May the Lord make you blessed in your chosen path,” she said. “You will always be welcome here, though, if you need a place to stay a night.”
“Thank you,” I said, smiling at her. “If it is alright with you, Mordred and I shall leave by the end of the week for my Uncle’s lands.”
“Absolutely,” she said. “Now, the abbey will give you each one outfit, and we shall supply you with a guide and a cart to ride in back to your home.”
“Thank you,” I said, feeling warm tears stinging my eyes. I blinked then away rapidly, telling myself that I was being silly.
“You are dismissed,” the Abbess said, sending me off to the scriptorium, where the Bibles were copied out. I spent my allotted time, forming each letter carefully. The entire time I had been there, the scriptorium had been like a friend. The scent of ink on paper had always been one of my favorite scents, which made the small room welcome.
If I ever get a house of my own, I think I would like a room similar to this one,I thought, replacing my quill to it’s place as the lunch bell rang. I stalled, stoppering up my ink bottle, cleaning off my quill on the blotter sheet and doing other minor housekeeping tasks.
There was no real reason for my stalling other than a reluctance to leave the room. I knew that I had the rest of the week to say good bye to the people, places and things that had made my life at the abbey home like.
Stop being silly, I told myself as I left the scriptorium, feeling sad already.You don’t have time to be so emotional.
The week passed on like that, with me getting choked up over the oddest things. Finally the day came, and the Abbess came to wake me herself, bearing a package with both a gown for me and a spare change of clothes for Mordred.
“This ought to be your size,” she said, setting it down on the foot of my cot like bed. “Before you leave, go down to the kitchens. A basket has been packed with enough for both lunch and supper for the two of you and your guide.”
“Thank you,” I murmured as I dragged a brush through my hair. Skillfully, I twisted it up into a bun before I reached for my wimple. It was then that I realized that I would never again be able to wear it, as it was a sign of the life I was leaving behind.
I turned to the Abbess and handed it to her regretfully. She smiled sadly as she took it, seeming to see my suppressed emotions in the semi-darkness. Abruptly I turned back to my bed and picked up the dress.
It was softer than anything else that I’d worn since entering the abbey, and I could tell that it was colored, though the dim lighting didn’t permit me to see which color it was. I stepped into it, and pulled it up. The Abbess laced it for me before offering me a belt.
I carefully wrapped it around my waist, noticing the shapes embroidered on it. Crosses were on each end, and lilies had been stitched so it was like they were growing around the crosses, while the stems of the lilies spelled out part of Pslam 121- “Quia ibi sederunt sedes in iudicio sedes domui David rogate pacem Hierusalem sit bene his qui diligunt te.” I hugged the Abbess tightly.
“Thank you,” I whispered, feeling the tears sting my eyes.
“I didn’t make it,” she said with a smile, hugging me back. “Sister Agatha made it for you.” That was all it took to make the flood waters free themselves from my control. I sat down on my bed, crying.
Of all of the sisters in the abbey, Sister Agatha was the one I was closest to. She had taught me everything I knew about medicines, and had been like a mother to me. I knew that I would miss her the most of all of the sisters.
“There, there,” the Abbess said, sitting down beside me and dabbing at the tears on my face. “I know that good byes are hard, darling. Sh, sh. It’ll be alright, though. I’m sure that the Lord has something better for you.” I didn’t know what to say, so I tried to force the tears back.
“Thank you, Mother,” I said, smiling at her weakly, though it was the last thing I wanted to hear. I forced myself to my feet, swaying slightly.
“It’s not me, dear,” she said, remaining where she sat. It was then that I noticed how much she’d aged in fifteen years.
Her hair, which had been black upon my arrival, had gone grey where it peeked out of her wimple, and fine lines had appeared on her face. Watching as she moved, I could see that she was suffering from stiff and sore joints.
Silently, I offered her a hand, and she took it, grimacing. Her hands even revealed her age, the skin soft and much like parchment- thin and appearing to be crackly. Calluses revealed a lifetime of hard work, and the nails were yellowed and unevenly cut. Veins left a raised map across the back of it.
When I came, I was just a girl, I thought, turning to leave the room.Everyone, including myself, was so young. Now this chapter of my life is over.
The halls seemed so empty, and I no longer felt like I belonged there. It was almost like the abbey was helping me with my good byes.
I made my way to the kitchen for the basket of food, and then to the nursery. Most of the children were asleep, but Mordred was sitting up with the sister on duty. I smiled gratefully at her as I saw that he was already dressed.
Quietly I led him out of the abbey, to the courtyard. Our guide was already waiting, with the mare hooked up to the cart. I lifted Mordred into the cart, and then crawled in myself, ready for the long day of travel.
None of the nuns were there to see us off, which I was grateful for. I don’t think I’d have been able to leave if there had been a lot of tearful farewells.
Mordred fell asleep within fifteen minutes of leaving the abbey, and I held him close as he slept. I had no idea how I would be able to care for him, but I knew that I would do my best for the child.
We rode in silence for several hours, the guide focusing on the mares and the road, and me holding Mordred. Even after Mordred woke up we didn’t talk much. He was a quiet child, very serious and thoughtful.
At about noon we had lunch, not stopping long to do so. As I repacked the basket, we started off again, and Mordred spoke for the first time in a while.
“Sister Morgan,” he said, his large dark eyes resting on me with an intensity of one well beyond his year. “Where are we going?”
“I’m not a sister anymore,” I said, a little sadly. “But we’re going to my uncle’s lands, for a little while at least.”
“Oh,” he said, soberly. I looked over to where he sat in the cart, playing with the straw that lined the bottom. His face was so serious despite the generous curves of baby fat still in his cheeks. It almost broke my heart to see that look on one so young.
“My uncle’s family doesn’t know that we’re coming,” I warned him. “They might not be very happy to see us.” Mordred made no response, and another silence fell.
We arrived at Uncle’s manor about an hour before sunset, and I knocked on the door nervously, clutching Mordred closer to myself. A servant opened the door, and allowed us into the antechamber before taking our names.
He vanished into the private rooms of the manor, where Uncle and his family lived. I sighed, my heart jumping into my throat with the fear of them not recognizing me, or refusing to see me, or of us being turned away. Mordred took in the surroundings calmly, with large eyes, as he sucked his thumb.
I must break him of that filthy habit, as soon as I get the chance, I thought, slightly distracted from my fears. Just then I heard the footsteps of several people, and turned to face my family.
“Morgan, it’s you!” Kellan squealed, rushing into the room and pulling Mordred and I into a hug.
“Welcome home,” Devin said, smiling at me as she released us. “We weren’t expecting to see you, Morgan.”
“Who’s this?” Kellan asked, smiling at Mordred, who was trying to hide in my shoulder.
“Mordred,” I said, feeling slightly disconnected from my family.
“Only you, Morgan,” she said with a laugh. “Only you would return home from a nunnery with a child.”
“I adopted him,” I said, suddenly aware of what it must have looked like to them. If they thought that I had slept with someone while supposedly at the abbey, they wouldn’t want me to stay. “His mother came to the abbey-” I hesitated, not wanting to speak of his mother’s death in front of him.
“I’m sure you’re right,” Kellan said, becoming serious. “And I have no doubt that it’s an exciting tale. But you ought to come in, sit down and warm yourself. You can tell us everything then.”