Liza’s head was full of all sorts that night. Her life had been fairly uneventful until recently. She was just an ordinary mature student doing a Ph.D. Her academic life fulfilled her, but suddenly she had been thrown into a different world. Not that it wasn’t interesting, but it was certainly different. One thing that she had learned was that nuns wore make up now! And that reminded her – she had wanted to go to Mass at the Chaplaincy. The next day she decided to do just that. Her head was full of thoughts about Father Peter’s toupee falling off, to the consternation of the make up wearing nuns, but she tried to put the picture out of her mind. Arriving in Radchester a little late, she had to run from her car to the Chaplaincy, her rucksack on one shoulder, overflowing with books as usual. As she ran towards the entrance, she came upon Father Ray walking in front of her. Her footsteps were heavy on the pavement as she ran, and, hearing her, Father Ray turned round to see who it was.
“Steady on,” he said to her. “You’ll come a cropper like that.”
Liza felt embarrassed, and slowed down a bit. She needn’t have worried. Mass was late beginning, and she had got herself sat down next to some ladies. It seemed a friendly place, and she turned to the lady next to her, introducing herself as Liza.
“Oh, I’m Sister Bernice,” said the lady.
“Oh, hello,” replied Liza. Then, taking the bull by the horns, she said,
“ You don’t wear habits any more now then.”
“Oh NO,” replied Sister Bernice. “We’ve godernised now.”
She then turned to the three ladies sitting next to her, and said,
“This is Liza. I was just explaining to her that we’re modern now!”
“Oh YES,” said the three voices all as one, straightening their rather nice skirts as if to show off their clothes.” Liza was suitably impressed. At that point a bell rang and Father Peter entered. The Mass began. It was rather different to the Mass at the big church next door. Much more low key. Liza enjoyed it and the friendliness there.
As she was leaving she spied Hugh walking along the pavement.
“Hi,” she shouted out, waving at Hugh.
“Oh, hi,” he replied. “I’m at a bit of a loose end. My lecture wnas cancelled.”
“Oh, well I need a coffee,” said Liza. “Want to come with me to McDonalds?”
“Why not,” replied Hugh.
They made their way along the road to McDonalds, talking animatedly about all the recent goings on, especially the ones at the University.
“Have you heard?” asked Hugh.
“Heard what?” replied Liza.
“Well that Patricia Hall has had a right ding dong with Father Chris. Something to do with the Church Fathers and misogyny. But you know father Chris, he’s right into the Church Fathers. He gave her quite a talking to when he discovered that she had been brought up Catholic. Told her shewas a disgrace.”
“Oh dear,” said Liza. “That will have put the cat amongst the pigeons. No one in the academic world knew that.”
“And that’s not all,” said Hugh. “That Graham Todd reckons he should be in Patricia Hall’s place. He’s been after being a professor for years now.”
“I can see there being some unrest at the University then” said Liza.
“Yes, and rumour has it that your Supervisor is off down to Cambridge. He’s managed to get some plum job down there.”
“Oh my God,” said Liza. “What’s going to happen to me then?”
“I have no idea,” replied Hugh. “But that place is in a mess at the moment.”
Liza became horror struck. She had put her whole heart and soul into this Ph.D. Why hadn’t she been told anything? She resolved to make an immediate appointment to see her Supervisor.
“Don’t worry too much,” said Hugh, trying to comfort her. “I’ve had three diddrent Supervisors and I’m still here. Sadly, they don’t consider us lot when they decide to up and leave.”
“No, and it’s our money that’s keeping them,” said Liza. “I don’t suppose they ever think of that.”
“Come on,” said Hugh. “Let’s drown our sorrows in a coffee and have a good gossip.”
They walked purposefully along the road to McDonalds. As they passed the Church of the Holy Name of Jesus, they found Father Ray sitting on a bollard on the pavement in front of the church with his dog, Toby.
“You got to Mass in one piece then,” he said teasingly to Liza.
“Oh yes,” replied Liza. “And I met the nuns too.”
“Oh, them,”said Father Ray.” “Nuns are not what they used to be. But then nothing is nowadays anyway. I wonder when I’ll get my candlesticks back!”
Liza looked at him, and said,
“There’s something very sad bout that girl. Have you ever looked into her eyes?”
“Oh yes,” replied Father Ray. “And that’s exactly why I don’t report her to the police. “I’m hoping she’ll talk to me one day, so I can find out what’s really wrong.”
“She sobbed her way through the whole of Mass on Sunday,” said Liza.
I know,” replied Father Ray. “Maybe one day I’ll find out what’s going on. I think this stealing is a cry for help.”
“We’ll get on then,” said Liza. “We’re just going for a coffee.”
Hugh and Liza sat at a table in the window again. Once again they saw Father Chris jogging along.
“I bet he has to do that to work off his angst after all that stuff going on with Patricia Hall at the University,” said Liza.
“I wouldn’t be surprised,” said Hugh.
“I wonder what IS wrong with that girl who steals the candlesticks,” said Liza. “I really felt sorry for her on Sunday.”
“I think Father Ray does too, despite being attached to his candlesticks. He’s not a bad old stick, even though he does act strict and stern. “Maybe when she brings the candlesticks back again, he’ll get to talk to her properly.”
“Oh, I HAVE got something interesting to tell you,” Liza said suddenly. “An old murder is being investigated where I live. They imprisoned the wrong man years ago, and now they are looking for the real murderer. It was a young woman who was murdered, and she left a young daughter. She was living in a Home for women who were escaping domestic violence. The child got put into care, and the rumour was that when she grew up she came to Radchester. It’s all very sad,” said Liza.
“Oh dear,” said Hugh. “I wonder if they’ll find the real murderer.”
I hope so,” said Liza. “I don’t like to think that there is a murderer on the loose.”
“Come on,” said Hugh. “How about we go and pay a visit to the Art Gallery over the road.take our minds off all these goings on for a bit.”
“Good idea,” agreed Liza.