A nun named Sister Theresa Clare approaches to escort me to the senior girls’ dorm. She’s chewing gum. One of her eyebrows is raised a little bit above the tortoise shell frame of her glasses, giving her a slightly impish appearance as she takes me by the hand and leads me up the stairs.
“We’re happy to have you here, Laura,” she says. “Sister Augusta thought the world of your mother.”
“I don’t really remember her.”
“That’s a shame. I don’t know what I’d do without my mother.” She twists her rosary beads absentmindedly around her fingers as we walk. All I can see of her is her face and hands. Even her neck is covered. Her slightly oily skin has no wrinkles. I wonder how old she is but figure it’s not appropriate to ask nuns such things.
When we reach the dorm, I survey the room. It has one walk-in closet, about a quarter of the size of the dorm itself, to hang coats, skirts, dresses and other stuff that could wrinkle up in a drawer. To the right are two rows of beds, a dresser beside each. One wall has several windows stretching from three feet or so above the floor to just below the top molding. They face the front yard and let in lots of light. Sister Theresa Clare escorts me to the sixth bed from the door against the inside wall. Happy I won’t be sleeping by a window during the winter, I put down my suitcase in front of the dresser that will be mine.
“We’ve got thirteen girls in the senior class now, including you,” Sister Theresa Clare says. “Julie lives in town, but everyone else stays right here.”
“That’s really small. There’s more than 650 in the senior class where I come from.”
“That’s really big.” She stifles a giggle.
She lifts up my suitcase, puts it on my bed and opens it. “Your dresser will be inspected regularly, and if your drawers are messy, you won’t be able to go into town on Saturdays, or go home for an occasional weekend visit.”
“I’m a slob. I’ll be stuck here for months,” I say.
“Oh, it’s not that hard to pass inspection,” she says. “I’ll show you just how they’re supposed to look.” She gently lifts my new clothes one by one from the suitcase and shows me how to fold them so my wardrobe will fit into the limited drawer space without getting crumpled. Nobody has ever helped me fold and put away clothes before. I think this can’t be right. Nuns are supposed to be mean and cold, but the two I’ve met here are just the opposite.
“Do you think the other girls will like me?” I ask.
“Of course. Why wouldn’t they?” she says.
I can think of lots of reasons. I might say something stupid straight off that will turn everyone against me. They might not like the way I dress, the way I walk, the look in my eyes, or they might take a dislike to me on general principles, like at home, where it seems I have to earn every scrap of acceptance I get.
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