Vittoria is awakened at six. “If you do not come to breakfast,” Sister Stephanie says, “there will be nothing for you to eat until noon.” So what? Vittoria says to herself. I don’t eat breakfast anyway. At lunch there is spaghetti e fagioli, ugh! So she puts a potato in the fire’s embers. Otherwise she’d starve.
Monsignor Boniface calls her into his austere office. He says she must obey the rules, follow the established routine, because she will be here a long time. Be punctual for meals. Help with the cleanup and other chores. Three hours of prayers and contemplation in the morning, and another three hours in the afternoon. Also, he says, she must study her catechism and bible because Sunday she will be asked to read aloud the word of the Lord.
The monks are silent. The nuns are silent except for the rustling of their black habits. The rosary beads hanging from their waists click faintly as they walk.
Her room is dark. It’s cold, and damp.
She sits at the window. A boat moves slowly across the water. She wishes she could swim out there, climb aboard. Why has James not come to rescue her? He is a smart man. He should be able to find out where she is.
James. His picture in the window of Barnes & Noble on Lexington Avenue drew her. She sat in the first row of folding chairs, and listened to him read from his book. He was the one, she decided.
She made sure she was the first in line. “Is this for you?” he asked.
“Name?” His eyes were green.
He scribbled with a black fountain pen. “To Vittoria with best regards, James Stephens.”
Later at Starbucks, about a block from the bookstore, she read in James’ novel. She looked up, and there he stood.
“Hello,” he said.
And he sat down at her table, as she knew he would.