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  • I shall not reveal what I know.
    It had fallen through the cavity between the wardrobe door and its base, and lay, crinkled and folded ten times over, upon the embroidered velvet carpet. The emerald ink had smudged onto the frail fabric, dotting my fingers as I lifted the envelope from the floor, and the red wax seal had fused into its seams, almost threadbare. The envelope was darned with coffee bean stains and rain droplets. It was addressed to a ‘Miss M. Elkins,’ presumably Meredith Elkins, the young nun who had been attending the nunnery for a little over a year then. An intelligent, curious young lady, however, she had little appreciation for the regulations here. Sister Caroline would consistently attempt to divert her from her “ridiculous” and “unintelligible” fancies as she was wandering from the chapel every morning, before, might I mention, she snuck into the kitchens. Though, admittedly, I have always been a tad envious of her. Her contentment with herself, her confidence, was admirable to me.
    The writing itself was unrecognisable; widely formed letters, transitioning from cursive to print every few words. It was the absence of the words ‘authorised’ that pricked my skin and goose bumps arose, a sharp, numbing chill invigorated my body.
    She could not, she would not. Meredith, you thoughtless girl! She knows very well, indeed, that we are forbidden to engage in private communication with individuals beyond the nunnery!
    I gripped the envelope in my hands, the long drapes, dulled from its warming lavender over time, imprisoned in the far corners of the room, now billowing mountains encaging, pressuring my thoughts. The wind had encircled the nunnery and had begun tumbling into the room, waving the envelope, consuming my vision. I was rendered senseless. Such a simple task I had ahead of me, yet I felt restrained. I could not do such a thing to Meredith. I knew she could be irresponsible and consumed by her fancies but I, nonetheless, could not have envisioned her participating in such secrecy.
    “Oh, the consequences she could face. Perhaps, I tell no one, perhaps I return the letter to its place, perhaps I forget what I have found,” I contemplated, my mind tearing in two, my perception of right and wrong intertwining and diverging at once.
    I recall juggling the conflict of my mind, coiling and gathering detail and density like a spinning wheel, cyclical, unwavering, linear; one idea leading to the next. I recall envisioning Meredith leaving the nunnery, the wind tangling her hair and the bare, gnarled trees turning their backs to her out of spite, the leaves kicking her heels, forcing her to run, flee from this place, and the sun losing hope as he dives behind the nearest mountain, blindfolding the Lord’s disappointment with a glove of deep velvet, and a luminous full moon.
    An elevating burst of flutter rose from my stomach, enlivening my limbs, as though the sun and I had become one, his energy became mine, my cheeks glowing the buttercup saffron of a canary. Curiosity. He pressured me to peel back the flap of the envelope, and the spinning wheel within my mind raced once more. Potential scenarios arose and the fluttering anticipation began to die and the gravel beneath Meredith’s trunk scraping as she hauls it to the equipage, a blind eye turned as she shuffles past me, excommunicated.
    I unfolded the parchment, peered over my shoulder, ensuring I was alone. The letter was short and concise. I began to read:
    “Meredith,
    Doctor Fitzwilliam has confirmed your enquiry.
    Prior to your departure to ‘St Macrina’s Nunnery,’ during your most recent appointment, he completed a series of tests and notified me the day before last that you are with child.
    Consider only this, if anyone questions me, I will deny everything. My reputation, my business, is of higher importance.
    Only God can save you now.
    Jonathan Quickley”
    Numb, I raised my eyes, and gazed fondly, in silence and tranquillity, at the dancing petals, miniature plump, tutus, that had twirled in from the wisteria that lined the gardens, and whispered, as if I was beyond my own being, “Only God can save her now.”
    I felt myself lower onto my bed, the breeze, scented with honey, mildew and wisteria, flapping the letter within my grasp. Folding the letter, following the crinkled lines of the parchment, my eyes transfixed ahead of me, daydreaming, escaping, fleeing from the bedroom, rushing out of the window and racing down Loxford Hill as I had done as a child, my feet cushioned by the soft grass, the mildew sprinkling through between my toes. No burden, no responsibility. Such escape had guided me through my day but confined within these walls, I felt burdened by what knowledge I had now obtained. Now, I merely have a thirst for such freedom, yet it has never been sufficiently quenched.
    “What I know, no, no, no. She could not. She would not. No, no, no. My Meredith,” I whispered, my breath heaving, the secret I have now become a part of ripping at my mind.
    “Stupid girl!,” I recall shouting, as I tossed the letter onto the bed, “no, it must be hidden. I have engaged in this secret. I also must protect it.”
    I stumbled, voices echoing, and chimes, prayer chimes for midday prayer. I glared at the letter, the monotonous tolls echoing, infesting my mind, making me sway, under a spell. In a swish of movement, I had walked from the room, the letter calling to me, commanding others to tell what I know and I tucked it away into the collar of my tunic, securing it in the breast pocket of my blouse. A harmonious symphony of voices began to whisk its way throughout the corridors and I remained transfixed. “What dreadful knowledge I possess.”

    I continued, winding through corridors, amidst my blur of burden and confusion, a need to escape that I cannot fulfil. I shuffle sheepishly towards the bells, the chapel at the far end of the nunnery. Flashes of golden light fall upon me, brief instances of relief, as the sun dares to entangle itself within my hair and the open windows allow for the nostalgic perfume of honey, wisteria and mildew. I breathe in, the scent pirouetting through the air, cleansing my path, and, with a blink, the shadows of the drapes and portico consume the sun’s beams, reducing me to confinement once more.
    I recall peering over shoulders, attempting to identify her from afar. I began to pick at the seams of my habit that rested upon my shoulders as I past Sister Caroline and Father Benjamin who had lined along the doorways to other rooms, inspecting us carefully. Sister Caroline’s piercing eyes lingered on me for a while longer than was necessary, or so I thought. My mind knew it was guilty and there she was. Meredith. I dared not to raise my eyes as we were funnelled into the narrow doorway. I heard a sharp inhale and a stifling of breath, of fear, it had seemed. I gazed from under my habit and Meredith gazed back, her eyes dull, tired, restless and guilty like mine. We maintained one another’s gaze, a knowing look, a glare, a blur of truth and secrecy. A corner of the parchment, the addressee ‘Miss M. Elkins’ had appeared over my tunic. I lowered my gaze in remorse but the perfume of the wilderness had entered my nostrils, filled my being. Escape.
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