Pamela York Klainer
Katie had up and down days during the remaining two weeks, but on the whole she was optimistic. She felt fine. She didn’t feel pregnant, whatever that might feel like. She felt sorry for the student but thought Stephen couldn’t have gotten two of them pregnant at once. The odds just didn’t favor it. Once she was in the clear, Katie knew she’d be hit hard by the reality of Stephen’s betrayal. But not now. Right now only one thing mattered, that her menstrual cycle kick in when expected. She went about her life day by day, waiting.
The girl withdrew from high school. There was a discreet rumor of money changing hands, whispered by a Sister in the comptroller’s office to her best friend at the Convent and with a vow of absolute secrecy demanded. The best friend swore to keep mum and then told no more than three other Sisters. Sooner rather than later word reached Loretta and Katie’s ears.
The angry father did not reappear behind the Bishop’s closed door.
Father Stephen sent regards to the parish and the school community from Rome, but there was no separate handwritten note for Katie.
Loretta was confused about the payment from the diocese, and wondered about it out loud. “Why do you think they gave her family money? To take care of the baby? Not to say anything about Father Stephen? If they paid money, doesn’t that mean they’re admitting Father Stephen got her pregnant? Then why did the Bishop send him to Rome?”
Katie shook her head, not even wanting to think about it. “I don’t know, Loretta. I don’t know what the money was for. Sister Agnes said it was a lot.”
Loretta pushed a little further. “Katie, if you’re pregnant, do you think they’ll give you money? Or do they only do that when you’re a lay person, not inside the Church?”
Katie bristled. “But I’m not pregnant. I’m pretty sure I’m not. I just don’t see how I can be. So I don’t have to think about what they might do. I wouldn’t care about money, it isn’t even about that.”
Loretta wanted to talk about Katie not telling her she’d thought of leaving, going with Stephen to become a couple, but she could see Katie growing suddenly fragile.
“Loretta, I don’t want to think about it, or talk about it. Please don’t ask me these things. We’ll know soon enough.”
And they did. Life passed quickly for high school teachers: classes to plan, papers to grade, students needing help, parents needing reassurance, committee service beckoning, shared housework in the Convent, and unexpected visit from Loretta’s family, who asked Loretta if Katie would share tea with them in the parlor. Two weeks raced by, then a few days, then a few more days.
Loretta didn’t want to ask.
Katie finally said. “It doesn’t really mean anything. Sometimes I’m late, and sometimes I skip altogether. I don’t feel pregnant. I’m sure I’m not.”
Loretta, who kept her worry at bay, was suddenly alarmed. “But how will you know? You have to go to the doctor, right? And how can you do that without Mother Superior’s permission? You can’t just sneak out and go see a doctor. If you ask, Mother will want to know what’s the matter with you. And if you go to our regular doctor, he might tell if he finds you pregnant. Katie, I think we need to call Father Leon. He said we could. He’s back from his trip; I saw him coming out of the rectory the other day.”
Katie shook her head, fiercely. “No, I’m not calling Father Leon. I’m not pregnant, I’m telling you. I’m not.”
Loretta was the realist, and Katie the one who thought what she didn’t see or acknowledge would remain invisible to others as well. She acted, and sounded, supremely confident.
“Loretta, it’s fine. I’ve just been worrying too much, and now I need to relax and let my system get back to normal. It will. I was just a little overwhelmed when I found out about the other girl. But I’ll be fine. Really, I will. I was wrong about Stephen. I won’t make that mistake again. I’m not in love with him any more, and I’m not pregnant.”
Loretta fell silent, seeing that Katie would not be moved.
But later, when each had retired to her bedroom for the night, Katie changed into her nightgown and robe and sat up in her reading chair long into the night. Her mother’s much younger sister, Mary Anne, gave birth only a few months ago after trying fruitlessly for years to become pregnant. At the christening, Katie held the baby and said how beautiful she was. Smiling, Katie asked her Aunt Mary Anne when she started to feel like a mother. Mary Anne’s face softened, and she said, “The minute I missed a period, before I even knew for sure I was pregnant. I trusted that God had finally answered my prayers, and I felt like a mother then.”
Katie frowned. Well, that said it all. She, Katie, did not feel like a mother, missed period or not. She never even contemplated being a mother, having decided early in high school to become a nun. “The mother” was her mother, the one still at home with her brothers. Nor did she, Katie, long to be a mother like her Aunt Mary Anne. She wanted to be a mathematician, a teacher, and that’s what she was.
Katie hadn’t even thought about becoming a mother when she had sex with Stephen. She thought she and Stephen were in love. She thought God chose them to be together, as Stephen said. She thought her vow of celibacy didn’t matter if Stephen said God’s ways were mysterious, and that God had a plan for them, and that it would all work out.
Well, it would all work out, even without Stephen. Father Leon had heard Katie’s confession, and given her absolution. God knew she was sorry. When Stephen returned in two years she would be far along in her teaching career, maybe even studying for her Masters degree. She wouldn’t give him the time of day. And she would have two more years seniority with the Sisters. That wasn’t supposed to count, but it did. The new, young ones got the worst housekeeping jobs, like cleaning the shared bathrooms. In two years Katie would be doing light housekeeping, if any at all.
She was glad to have Loretta for support through all of this, but honestly Loretta was such a worrier. Calling Father Leon would be a mistake. Telling him she had sex with Father Stephen, even under the seal of the confessional, was a wrenching admission, mortifying in its revelation of her most private life. She could never, ever summon up the courage to say, “Father Leon, I think I’m pregnant.”
But more time went by, and her period didn’t come, and when she called Father Leon, with Loretta by her side, that is exactly what Katie said.