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Sands of Time(19)
Author: Sidney Sheldon

Sister Graciela was assigned to work in the garden, tending the tiny rainbows of God's miracle, never tiring of their splendor. The walls of the convent rose high above her on all sides like a stone mountain, but Graciela never felt that they were shutting her in; they were shutting the terrible world out, a world she never wanted to see again.

Life in the convent was serene and peaceful. But now, suddenly, her terrible nightmares had turned into a reality. Her world had been invaded by barbarians. They had forced her out of her sanctuary, into the world she had renounced forever. And her sins came flooding back, filling her with horror. The Moor had returned. She could feel his hot breath on her face. As she fought him, Graciela opened her eyes, and it was the friar on top of her trying to penetrate her. He was saying, "Stop fighting me, Sister. You're going to enjoy this!"

"Mama," Graciela cried aloud. "Mama! Help me!"


Lucia Carmine felt wonderful as she walked down the street with Megan and Teresa. It was marvelous to wear feminine clothes again and hear the whisper of silk against her skin. She glanced at the others. They were walking nervously, unaccustomed to their new clothes, looking self-conscious and embarrassed in their skirts and stockings. They look as though they've been dropped from another planet. They sure as hell don't belong on this one, Lucia thought. They might as well be wearing signs that say CATCH ME.

Sister Teresa was the most uncomfortable of the three women. Thirty years in the convent had deeply ingrained a sense of modesty in her, and it was being violated by the events that had been thrust upon her. This world to which she had once belonged now seemed unreal. It was the convent that was real, and she longed to hurry back to the sanctuary of its protective walls.

Megan was aware that men were eyeing her as she walked down the street, and she blushed. She had lived in a world of women for so long that she had forgotten what it was like to see a man, let alone have one smile at her. It was embarrassing, indecent...exciting. The men aroused feelings in Megan that had been long since buried. For the first time in years, she was conscious of her femininity.

They were passing the bar they had gone by before and the music was blaring out into the street. What had Friar Carrillo called it? Rock and roll Very popular with the young. Something bothered her. And suddenly Megan realized what it was. When they had passed the theater, the friar had said: It's disgraceful what the cinema is permitted to show these days. That movie is pure pornography. The most personal and private acts are there for everyone to see.

Megan's heart began to beat faster. If Friar Carrillo had been locked up in a monastery for the past twenty years, how could he possibly have known about rock music or what was in the movie? Something was terribly wrong.

She turned to Lucia and Teresa and said urgently, "We've got to return to the store."

They watched as Megan turned and ran back, and they quickly began to follow her.

Graciela was on the floor, desperately fighting to get free, scratching and clawing at Carrillo.

"Goddamn you! Hold still!" He was getting winded.

He heard a sound and glanced up. He saw the heel of a shoe swinging toward his head, and that was the last thing he remembered.

Megan picked up the trembling Graciela and held her in her arms. "Shh. It's all right. He won't bother you anymore."

It was several minutes before Graciela could speak. "He - he - it wasn't my fault this time," she said pleadingly.

Lucia and Teresa had come into the store. Lucia sized up the situation at a glance.

"The bastard!"

She looked down at the unconscious, half-naked figure on the floor. As the others watched, Lucia grabbed some belts from a counter and tied Miguel Carrillo's hands tightly behind his back. "Tie his feet," she told Megan.

Megan went to work.

Finally, Lucia stood up, satisfied. "There. When they open up the store this afternoon, he can explain to them what he was doing here." She looked at Graciela closely. "Are you all right?"

"I - I - yes." She tried to smile.

"We'd better get out of here," Megan said. "Get dressed. Quickly."

When they were ready to leave, Lucia said, "Wait a minute."

She went over to the cash register and punched a key. There were a few hundred peseta notes inside. She scooped them up, picked up a purse from a counter, and put the money inside. She saw the disapproving expression on Teresa's face.

Lucia said, "Look at it this way, Sister. If God didn't want us to have this money, He wouldn't have put it there for us."

They were seated in the cafe, having a conversation. Sister Teresa was speaking. "We must get the cross to the convent at Mendavia as quickly as possible. There will be safety there for all of us."

Not for me, Lucia thought. My safety is that Swiss bank. But first things first. I've got to get hold of that cross.

"The convent at Mendavia is north of here, right?"


'The men will be looking for us in every town. So we'll sleep in the hills tonight."

Nobody will hear her even if she does scream.

A waitress brought menus to the table. The sisters examined them, their expressions confused. Suddenly Lucia understood. It had been so many years since they had been given choices of any kind. At the convent they had automatically eaten the simple food placed before them. Now they were confronted with a vast array of unfamiliar delicacies.

Sister Teresa was the first to speak. "I - I will have some coffee and bread, please."

Sister Graciela said, "I, too."

Megan said, "We have a long, hard journey ahead of us. I suggest that we order something more nourishing, like eggs."

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