Friday, June 29, 2012

FFF: The Red-Haired Nun

Every Friday Kurt is posting a new Flash Fiction story. If you have a word or phrase in mind that you think might make a good title to a short story, post it in the comments and maybe I'll try to write something that fits it.

The Red-Haired Nun

Word Count: 600

Sister Lucia had joined the convent in 1962 and in the intervening seventeen years she had never uncovered her fiery red hair except to sleep or bathe. The thick mass of curls had been a point of pride when she was still in the orphanage, even though the sisters warned her against vanity. But as an adult it, like all other signs of her womanhood, lay hidden beneath a simple habit.

Such was her appearance on the Tuesday when Herbert Rosen visited her, asking about a child he’d given up for adoption. After pouring over files from early fifties, they’d come up with nothing. For hours Mr. Rosen had looked at possible candidates and their pictures, only to shake his head after each and conclude that it wasn’t the right child.

“Can you narrow down when you would have dropped her off?” asked Sister Lucia. There were a few files that Mr. Rosen had hesitated over before dismissing, and she was convinced that one of them had to be his daughter.

“I’m afraid not,” said the elderly man. “I’m sorry.”

“Can you at least tell me why you want to speak to her?”

Rosen’s eyes were glassy, brimming with tears. “I just want to be sure she’s all right, that she’s had a good life. I just… there are so many… doubts. Regrets.”

“What did she look like?”

“She looked like a baby,” said Rosen. “I would know her if I saw her.”

“What about her mother? What did she look like?”

“I don’t remember so well,” said Rosen. “She died right after little Rachel was born. Maybe she was about your height, heavier than you, though. But she had a face like an angel.”

“Is that why you gave up the child?” asked Sister Lucia. “Because your wife died?”

“No, it wasn’t that.” Lucia intended to inquire further, but decided against it. Some things should remain private. Meanwhile, the old man was beginning to cry in earnest. “I just wished that I could find her,” he wailed.

“Why now?” asked Sister Lucia.

“What’s wrong with now?”

“Why not any time in the last twenty-seven years?”

Rosen hung his head. “My wife. Rachel’s stepmother. She’s no longer with us. I could not have pursued this while she was still alive.”

Sister Lucia blanched. What was he saying? “Do you mean,” she asked, “that your new wife made you give up your baby?”

Rosen nodded. “You don’t understand. I don’t either, really. She was an Englishwoman and kept ranting a raving about having a ginger.”

“I’m sorry?” asked Lucia.

“Red-haired and freckles. Rachel’s hair was dark, but you never know how it will turn out, and her mother had bright red hair. It shone like the sun.”

Lucia’s hand drifted up to her own head, her own hair. Could this man…? No, it was impossible. Her parents were long dead. That’s what the sisters had always told her.

“I’m sorry,” said Rosen. “I’ve taken too much of your time. You have my address, in case you find anything.” He stood to leave.

Lucia tried to stop him, tried utter some word that would keep him in the room, but found none.

“It’s a shame,” said Rosen, “Rachel’s mother fades in my memory more every day. Her face is almost gone, but it was like an angel’s. You remind me of her.”

And then the man was gone.

Lucia sat alone with her thoughts. She could investigate. She could contact him. She could. But she knew that she would not.

Some thing should remain private. Her hair would remain covered.

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