"He has pierced my side with His lance of love," said Sister Francis, "He counts my bones with His holy hands. None sees my wound; none knows of my constant pain. The cloister is my Golgotha, the walls my Jerusalem where I walk with my sisters. The clock chimes like the voice of God, the hours and minutes His to command. My brother Nigel kissed me once in our childhood games; his hands explored my girlhood like a gallant knight, his eyes looking with those of a hawk. Sleepless nights often remind me; his gaze haunts my nightly dreams with the power of sin. My father counted money with the coldness of ice; his fingers were green with the coins of the realm. He embraced us only when drink had engulfed him, loved us less than the favour of money; his look was icy as the frozen north. Sister Thomas walks by the statue of Christ; her fingers touch with the gentlest of touches. She stops and looks; her eyes have the colour of a summer's sky; her hands as soft as the finest of silk. I remember the touch when she felt my temple, when I fainted in the church one hot summer's day. She walks to the wall of the garth and the garden; her nose smells the flowers like seeking a lover; her fingers embrace a stem as fond lovers do. My mother's mind was fickle and fragile; her eyes were too tearful; she wandered about in her own private world; spoke of the angels at the foot of her bed. I see the birds that sing at my window, I love their songs that open my day. The thrush and the bluetit are my constant companions; their presence and friendship are the joy of my life. I walk to the garth and wonder in silence; watch as birds move round in their dance. Nigel and I once kissed in the forest; his lips and mine like Guinevere and Arthur, sometimes his Lancelot would seek and explore. Mother cringed like a beaten child; her eyes lowered to the carpeted floor. She embraced me once like one who is dying; her hands felt like ice when her fingers touched. Sister Thomas speaks, but her words are too quiet, I cannot discover the message she gives. I saw her last night as she walked in the cloister; I wanted her closer to whisper and hold me, wanted her words to embrace and to kiss. Dio è il miei amore e guida, I say in my mind's private language, God is my love and guides me through passages to my crucifixion, His hand touching mine through the coldest of nights. The bell rings for Sext the hour of prayer; I turn to go from the birds and the bees, my feet treading the paths to prayer and song. Sister Thomas follows; her footsteps beside me; she moves so close our shadows embrace. The sisters come like sheep to the slaughter; each with their sorrows and sins to the Bridegroom, His love and mercy their one holy passion; His touch and kiss their nightly haunt. We enter the church, a companion of sisters; our oneness and brideship the mark of our bridegroom, His presence so near unites us in bondship, His scent and whispers our constant reminder; our sins and aloneness He knows us too well. My mother's knees were sore where she knelt too often; her hands were red where she washed them too much. Father's cold touch never embraced her; his words were colder than ice in the winter, his eyes as dark as the night of his moods. We settle in our places; the choir begins. The voices of angels, my mother said when she visited me once in my novice trial years, her fingers all fidget, her hands held each other in nervous embracing. Come my bridegroom, empty my mind of the things of the past; embrace me and kiss me, your lover and bride. My crucifixion is in my nightly sweats; your loving gaze pierces my side; my heart is blessed by your care and compassion; my soul hungers for your light and love when the darkness comes and my flesh is so weak. Come my bridegroom, your bride awaits; her flesh all-a tingle, her heart wide open as the door to her soul."