11. Scapegoating

"Miss Dorias... You are aware of the Seniority Policy, right?"

Mother Superior Feliciana looked sternly at the young lady. Sister Helen, with heads, bowed down, slowly turned to the direction of Alex who was seated next to her. She was battling yet again with her panic attacks while subtly showing off a modest and well-kept composure. Alexandra nodded and remarked an inaudible 'yes'.

"The Seniority Policy applies to you right now, Ms. Dorias. I have with me here the papers you need to sign, as to whether you'll stay or you'll leave."

Alexandra looked at Mother Superior who is now handing her the documents.

She felt perplexed with the idea that of all the other juniors, she was the first one in trial with the said policy. Was it because of the issue between her and Eloisa just recently? Or was it because the top heads of the shelter still regarded her as their valuable ace? The latter thought flattered her.

Nonetheless, it was a difficult decision to make. She didn't want to leave the shelter, yet she wanted as well to explore the world outside and meet new people. 

'How will I get to decide? I thought this will be easy. I thought all along that my decision will always be in favor of the shelter. But now that I have considered going outside, I doubt if I could still put more weight on staying rather than leaving. My rational scale is betraying me.'

Alexandra is running through these thoughts in her head. She felt very problematic at that moment.

She took a glance at Mother Superior, and she confirmed an affirmative hunch that the elder nun is looking impatient now.

"Mother Superior I... I would like to ask for more time to think about this thoroughly, please?"

Alexandra slightly stammered while telling the elder nun about her request. Her gaze was still-focused on Mother Superior when she felt a cold and trembling hands rested on her arm. She immediately turned in the direction of Sister Helen who is now looking very sickly.

"Sister Helen are you alright? Your hand is very cold and you looked ill."

Alexandra saw the nun smiled apologetically. She then turned to Mother Superior who is looking sternly at Sister Helen.

"Mother Superior, I would like to excuse myself to bring Sister Helen to the infirmary."

The elder nun dramatically shifted her glance now to Alexandra and shook her head in disapproval.

"No, Miss Dorias. You are not excusing yourself right now nor that you will have a time extension to think about your decision about the Seniority Policy."

Alexandra widened her eyes as if she hasn't heard it right. Yet after confirming the already processed information of the elder nun's remark she narrowed her eyebrows in disagreement.

"Sister Helen is fine. She just needs to go to the comfort room. Go on, Sister Helen."

Alexandra looked at Sister Helen. She noticed a thick amount of tears forming in her eyes like restrained from flowing.

"I'll be back, Alex."

Sister Helen tapped Alexandra's shoulder gently and excused herself to the comfort room.

Alexandra was left with no other person in the office than Mother Superior Feliciana. She turned to her and pled that something is wrong with Sister Helen.

"Her touch was frosty and corpse-like Mother Superior. As a natural body's reaction from colds or fever, I'm not sure but she needs to be taken to the infirmary, not to the comfort room."

Alexandra blended her disagreement with slight sarcasm. She secretly hoped the elder nun noticed the sarcasm somewhere in her speech.

"Alex... The comfort room will fix her, believe me. When she gets out of that door, you will see a renewed Sister Helen."

Alexandra again narrowed her eyebrows.

"Mother Superior, I don't understand a thing of what it is you are proposing. But I will insist that Sister Helen is sick. She is sick Mother Sup--"

There was a loud thud cutting Alex in between her speech. The elder nun slapped her desk hard like there were evident objections and dissent.

"Miss Dorias, may I remind you that you are arguing with me. I repeat, Sister Helen isn't ill. That would be the last time I will say that. I hope I already made myself clear."

Mother Superior studied closely the look plastered on Alexandra's face. The young lady was looking very puzzled. To this, she felt the need to tell Alexandra more of what is truly happening to Sister Helen.

She inhaled a long and resentful breath. 

"She isn't ill, Miss Dorias, rather those were symptoms of her panic attacks."

Alexandra was again confused. There were loads of confusion piled up against her wee bit of knowledge and understanding in this situation she is in.

"I don't know what's a panic attack, Mother Superior."

Mother Superior chuckled softly, and suddenly closed her eyes and inhaled again a deep and long resentful breath. She held still in that state for a couple of seconds and eventually there were shallow and silent tears running down her face.

Alexandra was looking closely at Mother Superior, quietly observing her while witnessing in her very own eyes the stern and authoritarian leader of the shelter crying.

Then suddenly the elder nun opened her eyes and their gazes met. Like two separate generations met in the reflection of their eyes.

Alexandra noticed the pale yellow color of the elder nun's eyes. The micro veins are very evident in their fresh muse red color perfecting a pattern of branches in the elder nun's eyes.

"Alexandra... Maybe it's time for you to know the truth."

Alexandra involuntarily moved her head in a slight vibration as the statement uttered by Mother Superior called a lot of her attention.

She hastily blinked her eyes a couple of times before asking,

"What truth Mother Superior?"

A loud and careless thud of a door being closed broke the growing tension between Mother Superior Feliciana and Alexandra.

Sister Helen just came out of the comfort room and came in, directly in the scene. She looked distressed like there were traces of trauma in her eyes and fragments of the tumultuous ordeal on her face. Alexandra felt disturbed looking at Sister Helen with that kind of distorted expression on her face.

The young lady couldn't afford to stare longer at the young nun and instead diverted her eyes down to her knees and up to Mother Superior, who is also looking straight at her in a manner that the elder nun's gaze added more suspense to the atmosphere.

The office of Mother Superior is quite spacious. But at that moment, Alexandra perceived the office to be so small for the three of them. Like the four-cornered wall had compressed itself in just a box-like size. Like there had been some sinister occurring inside the office and was possessed by the two nuns - that every time she laid an eye on either of them, they will come rushing towards her with surreal and daunting smiles painted on their faces.

Abruptly, Alexandra can hear fast, yet softly audible murmurs uttered by Mother Superior and Sister Helen. She alternately threw glances at both of the nuns while her head is slightly bowed down. They were looking closely straight at her like a predator silently studying how to give a final blow to its prey. She couldn't hear clearly, for the only thing that was loud for her was a stinging frequency agonizing her auditory system.

Alexandra was becoming anxious.

"I shall go now Mother Superior!"

Alexandra exclaimed as she stood up from her seat a little bit off balance. She had her eyes closed, frightened to look at the horrifying faces of the two nuns.

"Alex... What's wrong?"

Alexandra felt a gentle tap on her left shoulder. She sharply gasped and turned to look at whom the hand belongs to. It was from Sister Helen. 

"Sister Helen..."

With eyes and face transparent with confusion, she placed her hand on top of Sister Helen's. Alexandra examined closely the face of the young nun. Nothing diabolic, nothing to be afraid of.

"'re real. You are... you are not some kind of possessed by demons."

"Alex, what are you talking about? Why do you look so scared?"

Sister Helen held Alexandra on both shoulders, facing her on the front, slightly shaking her.

"I just saw something sinister, the moment you walked out of that door in the comfort room. Sister Helen... your face was distorted and you held such a devilish expression. The same thing occurred to Mother Superior."

Alexandra turned to look at Mother Superior. The elder nun threw a sympathetic look, in eyebrows quite narrowed and forehead crinkled in small folds.

Sister Helen waved Alex's attention to her, and drew her head gently to her chest, letting it rest there while she reached for the young lady's hair and brushed it using her hands.

"Hush now, Alex. You were just seeing things, okay? I did come out of the comfort room door, but trust me I walked straight back to my seat beside you."

There were already thick foams of tears on the young lady's eyes.

But Alexandra held her tears from falling. She felt embarrassed for having to throw a deranged scene of hallucinations in the middle of her conference with Mother Superior and Sister Helen.

"My apologies, Mother Superior and Sister Helen. It was so unexpected of me to do such acts."

Alexandra bowed her head while she delivered her apology.

There was a deep and heavy exchange of gaze between Mother Superior and Sister Helen. The younger nun had tears forming in the corners of her eyes, already on the brink of falling down her cheeks.

What Alexandra didn't saw, was the raise of the elder nun's lips into a conniving smile.


"Do you really think that could excuse you from your responsibility at this moment? Alexandra, I need an answer from you. Will you stay, or will you leave?"

Alexandra looked sideways. Mother Superior had been rushing her for her decision. 

"Mother Superior, first of all, I did not fabricate the scene. I was telling the truth about what sinister I did saw. And, since you are really rushing me, I will give my decision right after you answer my question."

Alexander could not believe she just delivered that straight. She just meant a fair and square deal between her and the elder nun. Because she was convinced by her mere observation that the elder nun must have a concrete objective why is she rushing her. And most importantly, she must have a justifiable reason why of all the junior shelterlings, she chose her to be the first in the trial.

Is it because the elder nun wanted Alexandra out? Or is it because she wanted a favorable assurance that Alexandra will stay, because to begin with, she is an exceptional child and she is truly an asset in the shelter.

Mother Superior had her lips pursed and eyebrows quite narrowed.

"You are contesting with me, Miss Dorias. I appreciate your courage. So, okay. What is your question for me?"

Sister Helen was quiet, but she served as the mediator between the elder nun and Alex.

"I am aware, Mother Superior, that among the juniors in our batch I was the first one in the trial. So why me? Why are you such in a rush about my decision if I will stay or leave the shelter? What's with me?"

Mother Superior clasped her hands together and placed it above her desk. 

"I was only expecting a single question, but you handed me quite a lot in a queue, Alexandra. Nonetheless, all of your questions are boiled down to only one answer."

Alexandra glimmered her bright brown eyes with invisible glitters she bestowed herself to make-believe.

"Alex... I was telling you something about the truth you need to know about you earlier right? Before I was cut off with your hallucination episode."

The elder nun quite made a fuss of the latter terms she uttered. Yet, she snapped that out and became more serious with the matter she is about to bring up.

"That truth will be my answer to all your questions."

The elder nun inhaled a couple of long breaths with eyes closed before she proceeded.

"You are an essential person here in the shelter, Alexandra. You possess great talents and you have a good personality and humble attitude as well. I know, either way, you stay or leave, you will be able to grow more and bloom as a fine young maiden. But, I have this special authority that I will be the one decide for the junior shelterling to stay or leave. And in your case, Alexandra, if I were to decide, I won't let you go out..."

There was a steady yet tensed silence among the three occupants in the office. Mother Superior opened her mouth and was about to continue talking, yet she felt hesitant with her choice of words and sort of withheld her tongue static. For a moment, she contemplated the dense truth she had been keeping for fifteen years.

"... But I cannot let you stay either. Not anymore."

Alexandra painted out a puzzled expression. All of a sudden her heart has been beating faster than usual. She would like to speak up when she was preceded by Sister Helen.

"Moth-er Su-perior, I t-think you going t-too far."

Alexandra glanced at Sister Helen, and she was horrified by what she just saw. The young nun was so pale, there were large grains of sweats gathered around her forehead and on her nose. She had this look earlier, and now she looked worse. She immediately took off her white hanky and gently wiped the mass concentration of sweats.

Forthwith what Sister Helen had exclaimed in stutter speech, Mother Superior took over with loathsome rage.

"Now how far do you think is it going to work still? All this pretending and lying and keeping of secrets, Sister Helen! We are opposing our sworn oath. We are objecting to the Almighty! I do not know any other measures that will help us and most especially help this child... your child."

Alexandra was all eyes on Mother Superior, while her hand with a hanky still rested on Sister Helen's forehead. She was stunned by such a novel expression of the elder nun. And above all that, the last two words uttered kind of intrigued her.

"What do you mean Mother Superior? I'm sorry but I am really confused."

The elder nun apologetically stared at Alexandra. Then she shifted her eyes to Sister Helen, who is now looking and acting very sick. Sister Helen had tears all over her face, and stared back at the elder nun with eyes fragile and docile, relaying her secret plead.

Yet, Mother Superior dramatically shut her eyes closed and shook her head in disapproval. She eventually turned to Alexandra.

"Alexandra... What did Sister Helen tell you when you asked her about your birth mother?"

"She told me that I was found in the trash. And, she happens to know my birth mother by face because she caught the woman oftentimes sneaking out a look by the gates."

"And do you believe her, Alexandra?"

Though perplexed by what the elder nun is implying, Alexandra couldn't deny that she felt a turmoil building up inside her, which sends her off a disturbing feeling.

"Yes, Mother Superior. I believe in Sister Helen, for she had been with me since time immemorial. I believe her in everything... Because she was like a mother to me."

"How about your birth mother? What if she comes back?"

Alexandra stopped and contemplated for a moment. She felt her eyes getting mist and getting ready for a heavy burst of tears.

"I don't care about her. She'd rather be dead than show up claiming that I'm her child. Because no mother is going to dump her child together with filth."

Alexandra uttered every word with such dense anger and frustration.


Alexandra looked at Mother Superior with restrained emotions.

"What if I tell you, that your biological mother is here with you. And..."

The elder nun broke her voice into a sudden burst of tears. Alexandra watched her closely, waiting for a slice of the truth, which is mainly about her.

She felt a trembling and frigid hands circle a grip on her wrist. Alexandra knew it was of Sister Helen, and she smiled sincerely at her, trying to somehow lighten up whatever predicament she is facing; trying to tell her that she will always be at her aid.

"... She is right beside you, Alexandra."

Alexandra hastily blinked at the elder nun and immediately turned to look at Sister Helen who had tightened her grip on her wrist.

The young nun is looking very grotesque and morbid looking straight through Alexandra's eyes, with a faint smile unsteadily pinned for consistency.

She mouthed, in words barely audible enough.

"I love you, my dearest child... Please forgive me..."

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