“I’m here to see Sister Catherine.”
“Yes. It’s nice to see you again, Mary. Please have a seat. Catherine has just finished up with another — visitor. Why don’t we take care of business now. She’ll be with you in a moment.”
Mary Elizabeth nods. She hands the woman behind the desk four hundred dollars in cash, and sits, keeping her coat on and her purse clutched in her lap. She tries not to look at the lobby: the garish red and black decor, the velveteen curtains tied back with steel chains, the worn spot on the black leather sofa. It makes it harder for her to think of this the way she needs to think of it. She sits, and stares at her knuckles gripping the handle of her purse, and waits.
“Mary Elizabeth. Please come in.”
Catherine has stepped into the lobby. She is dressed, as always for their meetings, in a modified modern habit: the knee-length gray dress, the heavy hose and sensible shoes, the small, unimposing wimple. She has carefully wiped all traces of makeup from her face.
She takes Mary Elizabeth by the hand, and leads her to the now-familiar room, the one fitted up like a schoolroom. An office or rectory would have been better, but this was the closest they had.
“Sit down, Mary. We have to have a difficult conversation.”