A young woman suffers prejudice in a mediaeval nunnery for an unwanted pregnancy, dying in the process. Her son grows up to be a successful man who ponders on the ignorant prejudices of others.
In the last days Rosie had lain alone in her dormitory room. No one spoke much to her. She seemed to cast an unkempt shadow wherever she went. The sisters went about their business and she about hers. Rosie was always awkward as a child, but she had grown into an adult not without grace, even if it manifest in an ungainly way. It wasn’t that she was physically challenged; far from it in fact. She had a luminosity which attracted those who did not deeply resent her for it. No, it was more her lack of care for outward appearances and her unusual stance on the plight of the human condition which others noticed. Worse than this, she had dared confront the idea of deity. Rosie did not believe in God; a dangerous precedent for the disgruntled and the unhappy. Who in their right mind would question God? Rosie would not acquiesce the presence of an unseen being to whom she was meant to be appreciative of for her very existance. The problem was, she was overheard voicing this very thought, by Good Sister Arabella, who had worked her way up from tiresome laundry duties to tending of the garden which fed not only the sisterhood, but the attendant flocks of sheep which grazed about the meadows surrounding the Abbey.
The Abbess herself had agreed to take on Rosie, because Rosie’s father was a notable businessman in the village of Summerston, not two miles hence from Millstock Abbey walls. The Abbess secretly thought Rosie to be a very strange and sullen creature, but openly she praised the wayward girl and admonished those who rolled their eyes or stared heavenward whenever Rosie was near. Much was to be gained for the Abbey by publicly accepting Rosie as an integral part of its daily workings. A job in the kitchen had been found for her. The trouble was expecting the other sisters to see and accept Rosie in the same way. After all, Rosie was odd. She detested the colour brown, which was difficult to avoid in 14th century Abbeys and Priories. She was afraid of numbers divisible by three (the devil’s number?) and, she refused to congregate where there were more than three people taller than herself. For the other sisters, there was no logic to Rosie’s thought patterns. Her perceived deliberate awkwardness was seen as a public and private hindrance to the otherwise humdrum routine of a Southern Abbey of some esteem.
Rosie spoke to no one during the long days which spread before her like chequered cloth on an endless loom. It was easier that way. She understood nothing of the Latin inscriptions which framed the doorways of the Abbey’s halls. She did not care for what she saw as the futility of prayer or singing to an absent god. She did not feel the mark of respect for the hallowed sanctity of the Great Hall, where leaders and venerable members of the various factions of Christendom would gather to pay their respects to each other and to themselves. Not for her was even the melodical singing of the younger sisters, free from the cynicism of the outside world and not yet succumbed to the frustrations of a life void of that same world.
Rosie always sat in the same wooden chair during matins, vespers and evensong, her face slightly turned away from the gathering. Her lips never moved in prayer and she never moved in tune with those around her. She preferred instead to attune herself to the lark and the nightingale, favouring their rhythmic movement with the sun and the seasons.
In the early days Rosie never did anything to shame the Abbey, nor did she do anything to favour herself with the sisters. She simply was, and she lived according to the ideas in her head of how to be.
Had she lived in another time, Rosie may have been praised, rewarded even, for her beauty of spirit and her native intelligence; of little use in the four walls of stone she faced every day of her short life. For Rosie had gifts, and gifts are not welcomed in such a barren environment; even less so if they are beatified by an unknown force. The Abbey did not look upon such difference with kindness, only strangeness, sorrow and indifference. Rosie challenged herself almost daily to try to fulfil her obligations to the Abbess for taking her in, by proving herself at her secular duties. After all, had she not been accepted into the Abbey, she surely would have been cast out or worse still, married off at the tender age of 13, to an aged and toothless man with rough hands. She knew in her heart she was grateful for the care she received, although deep down she knew it was her father’s purse which indubitably paid for such care. So, when she one day decided to ingratiate herself into the favour of a visiting Abbot by tempting him with her certain charms, she did not consider her wrongdoing any more than the landowner considers taking the hard toiled harvest from his tenants as a God-entrusted right.
Rosie suffered the anguish of an unlooked-for pregnancy and was ill-advised by the Abbeys’ apothecary to return to work in the kitchen within days of her confinement. With hushed tones, the assigned sisters cared for her offspring, a healthy boy, as Rosie was carried to the next world by an unforgiving infection. The child, it must be noted, thrived and grew to be a well-respected and highly enlightened, but careworn gentleman, who pioneered studies into those natural diseases which infect the mind. He came to the conclusion that genius is an inestimable gift, which shapes us into something not fitting the ideals of 14th century life. Rosie’s ‘affliction’, he concluded, was no more an affliction than the trademark grievances which, in more modern times, are more accepted and at times even praiseworthy. How many others, he pondered, of a generation, had suffered and died through prejudice and ignorance, when they were in fact the very ones chosen to lead and to change and to restore the world to its rightful place?