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You're Gonna Die

By Derek Muk

Betty sat on the bed and looked at the clock on the nightstand: 4:10 PM.

She watched as the seconds quickly ticked by, watched as the minute hand moved forward another notch. She sat there staring at the precise, steady motions of the clock hands until her eyes started to blur and grow tired, until the rhythm of the ticking and her heartbeat were one.

She got up and started pacing the small room anxiously, clasping her hands together. She stopped for a second, and studied a cross that hung on the wall, a hopeful look on her brown-skinned face. Her big, dark brown eyes turned their hopeful, searching gaze to a sculpture of Jesus Christ on her dresser bureau.

She knelt before the cross and prayed for a moment before walking over to the window. Outside, a light rain was falling gently from the gray skies. The streets below were quiet and deserted on this late October afternoon. Across the street was an empty parking lot, and next to that, a drug store that displayed Halloween masks and plastic jack-o'-lanterns behind its windows. Further down the block was another run-down hotel, and beyond that were some boarded up storefronts.

Turning away from the window, she studied the small hotel room once more, looking at the walls with their peeling white paint, at the cheesy painting of a hobo sitting on a train that came with the unit, and at the cheap, plastic dining table and chairs that had also been furnished.

Her dark eyes moved to the open suitcase lying next to the bed, and the few pieces of clothing that hung from the closet rack. The suitcase and two bags had carried her entire existence for the past couple of weeks, and now she was hoping to finally settle down and find some meaning and purpose to her life. But something was holding her back. She didn't feel at home quite yet; there was still that feeling of being at a
temporary spot; of being lost in limbo, as she often liked to describe it.

She looked at the suitcase again, sighing.
Let's worry about that later, she thought. She shrugged into the black sweater that matched her black skirt, black stockings, polished black shoes, and her nun's black and white veil. Lastly, she grabbed an umbrella and left.

She walked the quiet, rain-slicked streets of downtown Reno, a young, slender woman of twenty-four-years of age. A woman that felt that she didn't have any purpose in her life, who wanted to be challenged, and who wanted to make a difference in the lives of others. The light rain was getting her stockings a little wet but she didn't care, she kept walking. When she had the right of way at the crosswalk, and a motorist cut her off and sped away, she didn't care, she didn't even look at the driver. She kept walking. When an aggressive panhandler cursed at her and called her a racial slur for not giving him change, she didn't care, she kept walking.

She walked past some of the casinos, looking in occasionally but showing no interest. She heard the sound of coins clanging down into a tray from a slot machine as she strolled past Harrah's. Crossing the street, she went down a block to the bus station. As the rain got heavier, she sat down on a bench inside the sparsely populated station. It reminded her of the Greyhound bus depot not too far away, with its few snack and soda machines, bus schedules posted behind glass, and the usual assortment of drifters and transients loitering around.

A man with disheveled, greasy hair wearing a camouflage jacket and ragged jeans approached her and asked for change, but she told the man politely she didn't have any. He mumbled something incoherent, then limped away. A woman pushing a shopping cart full of bags of aluminum cans talked to herself as she passed by Betty.

Betty noticed that a skinny Latino man with a thin mustache and a pockmarked face kept looking at her. He stood leaning against the wall near the door. She pulled her skirt down more, covering her knees. When the man didn't stop looking, she moved to another bench on the other side of the room. A few minutes later, she looked over her shoulder and saw that the man was still watching her.

Her bus arrived and she boarded it along with some other people. As she sat in a seat in the middle, she saw the skinny Latino man step on board and proceed to the back. He passed her, giving her a look, and she turned away immediately.

About thirty-five minutes later, she got off on Belvedere Avenue, noticing that the man didn't follow her. She felt immensely relieved as she walked the two blocks to St. Michael's Catholic Church. The skies above were already dark.

Upon arriving at the church, she went straight to the business office like she had a few days prior, when she'd made a separate trip to the place to find out where exactly it was located, so she wouldn't get lost going there. She shook her umbrella free of water and glanced at her watch before knocking on the wooden door. It was ten minutes before six.

Several seconds later, the door opened slowly to reveal an elderly man with snow white hair, wearing a pair of glasses. He was dressed all in black, and had a white collar around his neck.

He smiled pleasantly at her and said, "Sister Betty?"

She nodded. "Father Andrews?"

"Yes, that's me. Did you find the church okay?"

"I did."

"Good," he said, leading her to his office. He sat behind a large oak desk, while she situated herself in one of the guest chairs before the desk. He poured her a cup of hot peppermint tea.

"Basically the job description you saw on the Internet sums up the position pretty well. You'd be teaching two classes three days a week, an English class and a History class. The position is part-time with the possibility of becoming full-time in the future. Both classes are comprised of sixth graders, and they're well-behaved kids," he said, smiling a little. "You'll also be teaching here at the church classroom."

She sipped some of her tea, nodding.

"Any questions?"

"Um, no. Sounds very interesting and challenging, though."

Father Andrews smiled again. "I'm glad you think so." He looked over a sheet of paper. "Seems like you have a fair amount of experience teaching, Miss Gonzalez. What subjects have you taught?"

"English, math, art, and history."

"What sort of talents do you think you can bring to our school that would make it a better place?"

She put down her cup, thinking a moment. "I think my love of working with kids is one of them. If you talk to my previous employers, they'll tell you that I'm very committed and dedicated to children. I've been a teacher, a mentor, an advocate, and a counselor. I have three nieces and one nephew whom I have mentored and provided much inspiration and guidance to. I also thrive on challenges and new situations."

Did I answer his question? She thought. Hope that sounded okay.

He nodded with a smile, looking at the piece of paper once more before putting it down. "Well, we'll be making a decision in the next couple of days, and will let you know either way what that outcome will be. Thanks very much for coming."


As was expected, she experienced much anxiety and tension in the following two days about whether she would get the job or not. Much of the time was spent in her room at the Traveler's Hotel, sitting on her bed and staring at the phone and the clock, studying the seconds hand tick by. She stared until her eyes began to blur and grow tired. Sometimes she looked at the phone and wished it would ring, but it didn't. She alternated the gazing with pacing around the room, clasping her hands together. She would stop at the window periodically and watch the empty, vacant streets, seeing transients and drifters pass by every so often. Occasionally, she'd hear a drunken man yelling in the hallway outside.

She prayed often in front of the cross, and also finished hanging up the rest of her clothes in the closet. From time to time, she looked at the framed pictures of her nieces and nephew on her dresser bureau, and smiled.

Walking over to the tiny kitchenette with its yellowing, curling linoleum, she poured herself a glass of water from a bottle and drank it slowly. From the corner of her eyes, she saw a large cockroach crawl quickly across the kitchen countertop. She grabbed a wad of tissue paper and smashed her hand down on the bug, balled up the Kleenex, and tossed it into the garbage can.

It wasn't until the next afternoon that she received the phone call from Father Andrews. She felt her heartbeat grow faster as she waited in suspense about the news.

"Sorry I haven't called you earlier, Miss Gonzalez; we'd like to offer you the position," he said.

"Yes," she said, trying to suppress her excitement. "Thank you so much, Father. Thank you."

"You're quite welcome." She heard him flipping some pages over the phone. "Can you start this coming Monday?"


On her way to the bus station, she passed by a group of kids dressed up in Halloween costumes, and watched them walk up the steps of a house to ring the doorbell. When she arrived at the station she saw the same skinny Latino man watching her, leaning against the wall. She immediately moved to another bench.

From her peripheral vision, she noticed him approaching slowly. She turned to him when he was about five feet away.

He gave her a hostile look and said something quietly in Spanish.

"I'm sorry?" she asked.

"You're gonna die," he said in the same low tone of voice.

"What?" she asked, her mouth dropping open.

"You heard me," he said, and walked away.

Throughout work that day, she was preoccupied with thoughts of the man. Who was he? And how dare he have the gall to say something like that to her! Thinking about it more just made her turn red with anger. She told herself to just forget about the whole incident. Heck, she didn't know him; he was an
absolute nobody to her. But, as much as she tried to block him out of her mind, those three words kept echoing eerily in her head: You're gonna die.

After her last class that day, she passed by Father Andrews' office and saw him going over some papers inside. She wanted to go in and tell him what had happened, wanted to be consoled by him. But, for some reason, something held her back and she simply left the church.

A few days passed. She didn't see the man at the bus station again, or on any buses for that matter. Breathing a sigh of relief, she was able to teach her classes that morning and afternoon without much anxiety or tension. Maybe it was a just a rare, freak incident, and she would never see the man again. She hoped that was the case.

After her English course, a student of hers named Morris stuck around for some tutorial assistance on an assignment. He was a quiet, soft-spoken dark haired kid who had problems being assertive. He had actually tried to approach her for help before, but had kept hesitating. Finally, a fellow classmate walked up to her with him and told her he needed assistance. Morris was the kid who always sat in the back of the classroom, who ate lunch alone, and who was often picked on and harassed by other students. She felt sorry for him, and wanted to empower him to be stronger, and to stand up for himself.

After going over the homework assignment with him in her office, they left the church and walked to the bus stop together. The rain had finally stopped, and the streets were starting to dry up.

Once on the bus, Morris turned to her and said, "Sister Betty, thanks for helping me. You're the first person that's done that, and I really appreciate it."

"What about your parents? Do they help you?"

He shook his head, looking away. "No, they're always too busy, or not around. . .I asked my father to help me with an essay once but he went gambling with his friends instead." He shrugged. "My mom works three jobs, and by the time she comes home, she's exhausted."

She gave a solemn nod. "Do you have any friends?"

He shook his head again. "Not really. I mean, I talk to some of the other kids in class sometimes, but we don't hang out on the weekend or anything."

"What about brothers or sisters?"

"I don't have any."

"So you're by yourself a lot."


"Would you like to be more social?"

"I don't know. . .maybe it would be nice, but I like being alone. I guess I'm used to it now."

"What are some of your hobbies?"

He looked out the window for a second. "I like drawing, writing, collecting comic books, and National Geographic."

"Oh, that's a good magazine. I used to buy it from time to time."

"I like looking at the pictures of different countries and places because I'd like to travel around the world someday and learn about different cultures. I daydream a lot about the places I see in the magazine, about visiting those areas. . .'cause I don't want to be stuck in Reno for the rest of my life. I feel sorry for my mother. She was born and raised here, and has never been outside the state." He looked out the window again.

"I think that's sad. All my life I've seen her do nothing but work, work, work. Working at her jobs, and working at home. I tell her to take it easy sometimes but she doesn't listen, she says it's all for me. To support me, and to have money for me for college. . .I'll say, 'Mom, slow down. Remember what the doctor said about your back and leg pain.' Sometimes my mother and I will sit together and look through an issue of National Geographic, and I'll point to her the countries I'd like to go to. I want to show my mom the world but I know she'll never leave this place."

Betty thought for a moment. "I hope you'll be able to achieve your dreams of traveling."

Morris pulled the stop request string and said, "I do, too. Well, see you tomorrow."

That night, she called her brother in California, checked in with him briefly, and then talked to her nephew and nieces. After saying goodbye to her five-year-old nephew, she put the receiver back on the cradle with a smile on her face.

She corrected some essays and papers, then checked her refrigerator and noticed she hardly had any food inside. Frowning, she shrugged into her black sweater and put on her veil before heading out the door.

She went to Gina's Diner, which was located a block away from the hotel, and sat at a booth near the window. There were two couples inside, but the place was mostly frequented by drifter types.

As she tried to enjoy her omelet, she heard an old man sitting at the counter talking to himself. About twenty minutes later, the skinny Latino man with the pockmarked face stepped in and grabbed a stool a few spots down from the old man. Betty felt her heart skip a beat as she looked at the man, moving closer to the window and lowering her head close to her food, hoping he wouldn't be able to see her. He looked around the diner before studying the menu.

She quickly ate the rest of her meal, left some bills on the table, and quietly left the booth. Before she reached the door, the man turned on his stool and gave her a look.

"You're gonna die," he said. "The devil's gonna get you."

Who was he? What did he want?

She ran back to her room, slammed the deadbolt and chained the door, before jumping into bed and pulling the blanket up over her head.

"Why won't you leave me alone?" she said to herself in the darkness.

During her lunch break at the church, she saw Father Andrews sitting inside his office again reviewing papers, and wanted to go in and tell him about the man. But once more, she hesitated. Was she afraid of what he would think of her if she told him?
I'm not crazy, she thought. It happened. Yet her muscles froze and she didn't go in.

She taught her afternoon English class as scheduled, but was terribly preoccupied and anxious with thoughts of the skinny man. Some of her students, including Morris, noticed the change in her behavior, looking at her with concern. She asked Morris to read some passages aloud from one of their textbooks, then gave them their homework assignment and ended class fifteen minutes early.

"Are you okay?" Morris asked, after everyone else had left.

She looked at him briefly. "Huh? Uh, yes."

"You can be honest with me, Sister Betty. What's bothering you?"

She looked at him sympathetically. "I'd rather not talk about it now. But thanks anyway."

He paused for a moment, before asking bluntly, "Do you believe in the devil?"

"Why are you asking me that, Morris?"

"'Cause I can tell he's the one that's probably bugging you. You see, he's been harassing me, too, and following me. I've seen him on the bus, at the mall, in my neighborhood."

Her look became more serious. "How does he look like?"

"He's a thin guy with a mustache."

Betty felt her heart sink, stepping backwards a little.

"Are you all right?"

She didn't respond. Her big brown eyes stared off into space instead. A few moments later, she looked back at him and asked, "What do you know about this man?"

"Well, first of all, he's not a man," Morris explained. "He's Satan."

Betty handed him a cup of hot chocolate and he took a sip of it. She brought a tray of cookies over to where he sat on the love seat in her hotel room. She sat next to him, lacing her fingers around a cup of tea.

"When you say he's the devil, you mean that literally?" she asked.

"Oh, yes. I've seen him shape shift into other people, into animals, even a half goat, half man type creature with horns and hoofs. It definitely sent chills up my spine."

She shook her head. "It just seems so hard to believe. . .I mean, I thought these are the kind of things one sees in a movie or reads about in a book."

"No, it's very real, Sister Betty."

"Have you told your parents or anyone else?"

He shook his head, sipping some more hot chocolate. "They would've thought I was nuts. And I guess I wouldn't blame them. I don't want them to get involved, especially my mother, 'cause I don't want anything bad to happen to her."

She nodded. "Why has he been bothering you?"

"'Cause I know his secret."

"And what's that?"

Morris looked at her for a moment, then said, "He used to be a part of our church."

She frowned a little. "In what way?"

"Maybe I shouldn't tell you. I don't want him to harm you, too."

She told him about the incidents involving her and the man. "See, I'm in it as well. So you might as well tell me."

"That's because you're new to the school, and he probably thinks you're a threat of some kind. . .no, I'm sorry, Sister Betty, I better not tell you. For your own safety." He took a cookie, nibbling on it.

She looked at him silently, but didn't say anything.

On Saturday afternoon, Betty headed back to St. Michael's. She was off on the weekends but her curiosity got the best of her, and she followed her heart. The church was quiet and empty except for Jorge, the janitor, and Father Andrews. She smiled and waved at Jorge, who was dumping a pumpkin into a dumpster, then went inside. Standing five feet from Father Andrews' open office door, she could see him sitting behind his large oak desk, writing on a legal pad. He didn't see her, his ruddy face serious with intent as he kept scribbling notes.

Again, she considered going in and telling him about the skinny man with the mustache but found herself hesitating once more. She felt terribly conflicted about what to do, and frustrated at herself for not making a decision. She thought for a moment, then finally came to a verdict and waited outside Father Andrews's office until he was done.

About fifteen minutes passed before he switched off his desk lamp, closing his office door and locking it. He left the church with a briefcase in his hand.

She took out a paper clip and inserted it into the door's keyhole, jiggling it around. Thinking she had it a couple of times, she shook her head when the doorknob wouldn't turn. She was at it for another ten minutes before the tumblers finally aligned themselves and she was able to open the door.

After closing it behind her, she went straight to Andrews's desk and began looking through the drawers.
What was he always writing? It seemed important. She didn't find the legal pad he wrote on but did come across a black leather journal with a locked clasp on it. She tried to open it with the paper clip but was unsuccessful.

After searching through the other drawers and cabinets and finding nothing unusual, she left quietly with the journal.


Sitting on her bed Indian style, she smoothed out her black stockings before attempting to unlock the clasp with another key at first, then a pair of tweezers, then the paper clip again. When all three methods proved fruitless, she cut the clasp's leather band off with a serrated knife.

She flipped through the journal, and some loose photos fell into her lap. Some were of Father Andrews by himself, while a few others were of him and the church's staff. Her face froze when she saw the remaining two: they showed the thin man who Morris had called 'the devil.' In one yellowing picture, the man appeared much younger, maybe in his mid to late teens, and without the mustache. He had a big smile on his face, and was dressed in an altar boy's uniform. In the second photo, he was closer to the age she had seen him while at the bus station, that of his mid-thirties. His dark hair was short and neatly trimmed, his mustache like pencil lines.

Betty kept flipping pages quickly until she reached the most recent journal entry, dated yesterday:

I've been thinking about Daniel a lot. I see him in my sleep sometimes. I keep thinking about the sad day his sister discovered his body in his apartment with the bullet in his head. Suicide, the police said. I never meant to hurt him, despite what he claimed. It was all a terrible misunderstanding. . .also, I noticed that I've been followed on a number of occasions, by different people. Once by a street person on my way home, once by a young woman going to St. Michael's, a couple of times by a businessman, and a few times, strangely enough, by a dog. It's odd . I don't know what to make of it.

Betty turned to an older entry, dated May 19, 2000:

It's all a horrible misunderstanding. The media are having a field day with this stuff: priest sexually molested a man when he was a young altar boy. I won't lie. It did happen. But the way Daniel and the press are telling it is wrong. I never forced him into it, he consented. He was young and curious, at an age where boys are adventurous. So we went back to my apartment. There was no violence or physical abuse as they claim. It's scary how they want to rip me apart and throw me to the wolves, anything to sell papers or entertain the public. I'm so sick of it! Maybe I was a little rough with him at certain times, but I had flaws, too. I'm human.

She shook her head, disturbed by what she'd read. Taking a deep breath, she flipped back to another early entry, dated June 9, 1983:

I keep thinking about Daniel. Maybe I was wrong in forcing him to do what we did. I've been thinking about it a lot and feeling guilty. Maybe I shouldn't have pushed him too hard. But he didn't resist and seemed interested. It all seems confusing when I look back at it. I can't remember all the details, it was so long ago. Maybe it's better to just forget it.

And one dated July 18, 2000:

Did I drive him to commit suicide? Did all the memories push him over the edge? He needed help. I told him to see that therapist but he wouldn't listen. I feel like it was my fault, I don't know. I don't know.

Betty studied the photos of Daniel again, frowning. She looked at his big smile and her frown got deeper. She looked at the pictures of Father Andrews, shaking her head. Then, she closed her eyes to pray for a moment.

When class ended, she saw Morris still sitting in the back of the classroom by himself, reading something. She approached him quietly, sitting at a nearby desk.

"What are you reading?" she asked.

He flipped the pages of the magazine back to show her the cover. It was an issue of National Geographic. Then he returned to the photos of the skyline of New York City.

"What's your dream vacation?"

He looked up from the magazine, thinking. "That's a tough one. . .it's going to be a tossup between Africa, Australia, and England. Where would you like to go?"

"Back to the Philippines, my native country. I miss my relatives."

"Did you grow up there?"

She nodded. "There and the U.S.. My family and I moved here when I was fifteen. . .Morris, have you seen Father Andrews today?"

"I saw him early this morning, then he left in a hurry. He was upset because someone broke into his office and stole his journal. I saw him questioning the other teachers and Jorge. The police came, too."

"They did?" she asked, feeling some butterflies in her stomach.

"Yeah. Talked to some people." He shrugged. "And that was it."

"Did Father Andrews say where he was going?"

Morris shook his head. "But I overheard him telling one of the police officers that someone had been following him for the past couple of days."


She learned from Morris that Father Andrews lived on Collinswood Avenue, about four miles from the church. She got off the bus and walked the three blocks to the small stucco house, buttoning up her black sweater as a cold wind blew past her.

Looking through a window, she saw a reading lamp turned on inside, next to a brown leather recliner. Resting face down on one of the arms of the chair was an open book. A fireplace was near the recliner, with a poker resting on some ashes. She walked to the front door slowly and rang the doorbell. When there was no answer, she pushed the button again, hearing the bell ring from inside.

Silence except for the sound of crickets in the early evening.

She walked up to the window and looked inside but didn't see Father Andrews, or anyone else, for that matter. She started to worry, a frown forming across her brown-skinned face. She tried the doorknob but it was locked. Then she went down the side alleyway of the house to the yard, testing the backdoor knob. It was also locked.

Grabbing a nearby shovel, she gently shattered the glass of the door, reaching in past the shards carefully to unlock it. She wrinkled her nose a few times after stepping in, sniffing the air. Something was burning. She proceeded to the kitchen. Nothing. All the burners on the stove were off. The toaster was unplugged.
Then what was that awful smell? She covered her nose and mouth with her hands. It sort of smelled like burning meat or flesh. Of course, she had never smelled human flesh burning, but she imagined the odor to be that way. It was a putrid, rotting smell.

She walked further into the house, into the empty living room. Silence. She looked at the book lying on the arm of the recliner, at the stillness of her surroundings. Something definitely didn't
feel right. She felt around her neck for the chain holding her cross, and when she finally touched the object's sharp points, she breathed a sigh of relief.

"Father Andrews?" she said. When there was no response, she called out his name again.

Suddenly, there was a scream coming from one of the bedrooms. She approached the door cautiously, peering inside. Her jaw dropped open wide when she saw Father Andrews nailed to the wall-crucified in a Christ-like pose. Blood ran from the palms of his hands, as well as from his mouth. Parts of his skin had been burned. His snow white hair was matted with blood, his glasses smashed. The black clothes he wore were stained with blood and tattered.

He raised his head and saw Betty at the doorway. He shook his head and said hoarsely, "Get away from here, Sister! Go now! He's here. Go!"

"Who?"she asked naively.

The room was dimly lit, and she had a hard time seeing what else was inside. But then she heard something else from within, something that didn't sound or smell human. It smelled like an animal.

When she heard the growl again, she switched on the lights. Jumping back a little, she said, "Oh, my Lord."

It was part man, part goat. Tall, hairy, with horns and hoofs, its dark eyes were evil and menacing. Instead of having hands, it had two claws, both of them sharp and bloodstained. It turned and looked at Betty for a moment, before advancing slowly towards helpless Father Andrews.

Andrews shook his head. "No, no, please don't hurt me. . .please. . ."

Betty quickly grabbed a folding chair from another room screaming, "Hey, over here!"

The creature turned to her again.

"Yeah, you, you ugly thing. C'mon, get me!"

The beast's dark, evil eyes stared at her for a second, then it growled angrily before coming in her direction. She threw the chair at it but it deflected it with its hairy arm like a piece of paper. She picked up a nearby lamp and threw it with all her might at the goat-creature but it knocked it down and kept moving towards her. It started lashing out at her with its claws, ripping the fabric of her sweater. Blood began oozing from cuts on her arms. Another swing knocked the black and white veil from her head. She yanked the chain free from around her neck and pointed the cross at the creature, reciting a passage from the Bible.

The beast growled again. The growl sounded like mocking laughter this time.

She kept saying the passage aloud, undaunted. The beast swung its claw at her again, tearing the right arm sleeve off of her sweater. She had closed her eyes for a brief moment, clenching her teeth tightly together, expecting her arm to get ripped off. Resuming the recitation of the Biblical passage, she continued stepping backwards until the half-goat half-man creature was five feet from her

She watched it raise its muscular, hairy arm high in the air for one final swing.
This is it, she thought, forcing herself to keep her eyes open this time Here I come, Heaven. Oh, Lord, please forgive all my sins.

As the creature's long arm came down, she heard Father Andrews yell in the background: "Leave her alone! Come over here! It's me you want, not her."

The creature stopped its swing in mid-air, looking at her for a second before turning around and heading back to the bedroom.

"Come take me, you fool!" Andrews said. Blood continued to drip from the nail puncture wounds in his palms, his body sagging more from the crucified position. "C'mon!"

The creature stepped forward and lashed out viciously at him, severing Andrews's head from his body, like it was a rag-doll. Blood spurted from the wound.

She felt like throwing up but forced herself to remain strong, running to the fireplace to grab the poker. When she got back to the bedroom, she rammed the poker into the back of the creature and it immediately screamed in pain, trying to remove the metal rod. She jammed it deeper into its body, causing the creature to fall down on its knees into a slumped position. Within several seconds, it stopped breathing, and its body began to spark up into flames.

The fire started spreading quickly, shortly engulfing the whole room in wild orange flames. Betty looked at the burning bodies of Father Andrews and the creature once more before taking off.

She sat on her bed, looking at the clock on the nightstand. Studying the minute and seconds hands move forward. It was a quarter after ten in the morning. After watching the minute hand move up another notch, she got up, not wanting her eyes to blur or grow tired from staring too much. She looked out the window at the sunny November skies. The parking lot across the street was still empty, and the Halloween merchandise and decorations were gone from the drug store window.

She looked inside the closet that was full of clothes, at the suitcase sitting on the floor, then closed the door. She put on her veil and black coat, said a brief prayer before the cross on the wall, and then left.

She saw Morris sitting by himself on a bench outside of St. Michael's.

Even though it wasn't a school day, he was dressed in his dark school uniform and a black overcoat. In his hands was an open comic book. He looked up as she approached the bench.

"Good morning, Morris" she said.

"Morning, Sister Betty," he replied, closing the comic. "How are you?"

She looked down at the ground, thinking for a moment. "Fine." She looked at him. "I found out about the church secret. . .I'm glad you didn't tell me. It was better that I discovered it on my own." She shook her head. "What Father Andrews did was horrible. I'm sorry you had to know about this at such a young age. It sets a terrible example."

"You don't have to be sorry. What happened, happened. Now we have to move on."

She looked at him again, nodding. She opened her purse and took out an item that was wrapped in brown parcel paper, and handed it to him.

"What's this?"

"Open it," she replied, smiling a little.

He slowly undid the tape along the edges, then removed the brown paper, looking at the small stack of National Geographic magazines in his lap. A wide grin formed across his face. "Thank you."

"You're very welcome. I had them tucked away in my suitcase and forgot they were there."

"Hey, you want to go to the mall and get some ice cream? It beats going by myself."

"Sure, that sounds fun."

They got up and headed for the bus stop.


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