“You can come out now.” The voice was wry, a touch of humour warming it. Caught red-handed, Matthew withdrew from the AV cupboard, looking at the visitor warily. She was old, though not so old as Dr Maynard – somewhere in her sixties, probably. And she was nun, unmistakably, in the full-on habit he associated less with convents and more with Hollywood.
“Sorry,” he said, scuffing his shoe on the ground in a childhood habit that came back to haunt him in uncomfortable situations. “I didn’t mean to- that is, I was putting stuff away and…” He trailed off. The nun smiled at him.
“Don’t worry about it. I could see you, actually, and I assume Jack knew you were in there, so you weren’t exactly eavesdropping. And often it’s more tactful to stay where you are.” She winced, suddenly, and Matthew was galvanised into action, rushing forward, pulling the lecturer’s chair with him. She sat down, heavily, and Matthew crouched down in front of her.
“Can I get you anything?” he asked gently. She shook her head.
“No, thank you. There’s not much that can be done, now.” A look of utter weariness overcame her, and suddenly the warm, alive woman she had been a few moments ago seemed to shrivel into nothing. “I just wanted to see Jack before…”
“Before you go to God?” asked Matthew, tentatively. He had been brought up as good an Episcopalian as any other, but religion and God had been, for him, things learned by rote, rather than things he truly believed in. The nun looked at him suspiciously, as if expecting a taunt, then relaxed at his open sincerity.
“Exactly. I just needed him to forgive me. I don’t think he ever did, not really.” She seemed to be speaking more to herself, and though Matthew was dying to know what had happened to put her in the position of having John Maynard forgive her, he said nothing. “It’s not just for me,” she went on, “but for him. He needs to forgive. He needs to move on, because fifty years is a dreadfully long time to be so bitter.” She came to herself all of a sudden, and patted Matthew on the hand. “Heavens, I don’t know what came over me!” she said lightly. “Old age, I expect!” She rose to her feet with the aid of her cane, and allowed Matthew to escort her up the steps to the door. At the top, she held out her hand, and he shook it, careful not to press the delicate bones too strongly.
“Goodbye,” he said. “I hope…” But there was nothing to say. She smiled, and left. For a moment, Matthew watched the door swinging open and closed, like a pendulum, then, catching sight of the clock on the wall, gave a yelp as he realised he was on the verge of being late for his shift. He ran back down the stairs to collect his books, gathered them up, and then stopped. On the desk at the front lay a dark jacket – Dr Maynard’s. Gingerly, Matthew picked it up. Yep, it was the doctor’s… and he’d left his wallet in it as well. It would have to be returned. Adding it to his pile, he sallied forth, dumped books in his locker, and went off to find someone to entrust the jacket to. Unfortunately, he was unsuccessful, and ended up shoving it in his locker as well, aware that hunting for its owner would only delay him further.
At the end of his shift, it was eight o’clock and Dr Maynard, so he was informed, had gone home a while ago. Neither did anyone seem particularly anxious to look after the jacket, or return it to its owner. He could leave it in his locker overnight, thought Matthew, gazing at the jacket hanging up in said locker. But what if Dr Maynard needed his wallet before then? Before he knew where he was, Matthew had made up his mind to deliver both jacket and wallet to Dr Maynard himself. He got his address from one of the nurses (how was it they always seemed to know these things?), and walked forth into the night, a man on a quest.