Il dio è il miei testimone e guida, Sister Maria, the refectorian, had said, Sister Teresa remembered walking passed the refectory, touching the wall with her fingers. God is my witness and guide, she translated, feeling the rough brick beneath her fingers. She stood; turned to look at the cloister garth. Sunlight played on the grass. Flowers added colour to borders and eyes, she thought, letting go of Maria's words as if they were balloons. Ache in limbs; a slowness in her movements. Age, she muttered inaudibly. The war had taken her cousin's sons in death. Two of them. Peter and Paul. Burma and D-day. Three years or more since. She brought hands together beneath the black serge of her habit. Flesh on flesh. Sister Clare had touched. Not over much, not over much. Papa would lift her high in his arms as a child, she mused, her memory jogged by the sunlight on the flowers. Higher and higher. Poor Papa. The spidery writing unreadable in the end. She sniffed the air. Bell rang from church tower. Sext. She looked at the clock on the cloister-tower wall. Lowered her eyes to the grass. So many greens. Jude had lain with her once or was it more? She mused, turning away from cloister wall and the sight of grass and flowers. Thirty years since he died. Blown to pieces Papa had written. Black ink on white paper sheet. Flesh on flesh; kiss to lip and lip. She paused by church door; allowed younger nuns to pass; so young these days, she thought, bowing, nodding her head. Placing her stiff fingers in the stoup, she made cross from breast to breast. Smell of incense; scent of wood; bodies close; age and time. She walked to her place in the choir stall, bowed to Crucified tabernacled. Kneeled. Closed eyes. Murmured prayer. Heard the rustle of habits; clicking of rosaries; breathing close. Opened eyes. Sister Clare across the way. A nod and a smile, almost indiscernible to others, she thought, returning the same. Mother Abbess tapped wood on wood; chant began; fingers moved; sign of cross; mumbled words. Forty years of prayer and chant; same such of fingered rosaries; hard beds; dark night of soul and such. She sensed Papa lifting her high in thought at least; Mama's touch on cheek and head. Jude's kiss. Embrace of limbs and face. Il dio è il miei testimone e guida, she recalled: God my witness and guide. Closed eyes. Sighed. Sister Clare had cried; had whispered; witness and guide; witness this and guide, she murmured between chant, prayer, and the scent of incense on the air.
Sext in Latin is six. The sixth hour.