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Sister James oozed it, from her large doe eyes to her timid smile, the young nun exuded such incorruptible virtue that it baffled Sister Aloysius.

The older nun told her as much, during lunch that very day.

What she didn’t say was how she wished to capture it. She didn’t say how she longed to bottle up that soft smile and even softer eyes. How she wanted nothing else in the world than to shield Sister James from any and all evils. One would argue that this train of thought was selfish of Sister Aloysius, that she shouldn’t keep Sister James hidden and nestled away from the bad of the world, after all, those experiences molded a person. Sister Aloysius would argue that she’d become the devils footstool before she let any harm come to the other woman.

Yes, Sister Aloysius wanted to protect her from all the impurity of the world, which meant protecting her from her own self because Sister Aloysius’ mind had become anything but pure in the last few months. Not only had doubt, uncertainty, and suspicion wormed their way into her mind —all Father Flynn’s fault she will admit— something else had grown in the dark, hidden, places of her mind. Lust, no, desire.

She desired Sister James. She desired her presence and her companionship. She desired to feel those soft hands twined with her own, soft hands in her hair, against the skin of her body. She desired to see her lips quirk into a gentle smile, to see those lips whisper prayers in reverence against her hot flesh, she wanted to feel them against her own. 

It was a sinful affair even if it was only in her head, it broke every vow she’d made when she joined the sisterhood. And even though she knew that without a doubt He was watching, that His all knowingness was pointing a finger down at her, she couldn’t stop herself from desiring these things, for needing them more than air. She wondered how God felt about it, knowing that given then chance she would betray all the promises she made to Him and sin. Sin for her.

If she thought about it, it unsettled her, how could another person so unknowingly uproot all her beliefs? Make her want? Make her need? If she thought about it longer it made her sad. It made her sad to crave another being more than the Almighty she’d devoted her life too. It made her inexplicably sad that —and this was more likely than she’d like to admit— all of the turmoil and longing and feeling was one sided.

Yes, that made her saddest of all.

Except, sometimes, it didn’t feel so one sided at all. She cursed the flicker of hope that bubbled and sparked deep within her at that. Sometimes, their hands would brush and Sister James wouldn’t move away, or she would sit close, closer than anyone else would dare, she’d smile at Sister Aloysius just because. Sometimes, Sister James would look at her back —she would gaze— unflinchingly, unafraid. As if she could invite more between them, with just a look, as if she wished there were more between them.

It was in moments like that in which Sister Aloysius allowed herself to want, to desire, and to long. It was in moments like that in which she realized, she didn’t have a problem with the world taking Sister James’ innocence, just as long as she got to take it first. Just a taste and she’d happily drown, she knew that with all the certainty in her soul.