Maureen Sullivan ran to the railing and held her hat before the wind had a chance to blew it off her head. The city looked gorgeous from there and, as she soon realized, the cruiser had began to move. It was just perfect, feeling the wind on her face, the smell of the salt water and the beautiful city, which began turning on its lights for it was already late in the evening. Maureen stood there for several minutes until she heard the announcement of a special dinner to welcome all the passengers to this journey.
Maureen then decided to go to her room and change clothes for dinner. When she got to her cabin, she went through her luggage and started hanging some dresses and taking out all the shoes she had. She loved to dress nicely as she hadn’t being able to do so for many years. The thing is that Maureen used to be a nun. Yes. She had her calling at an early age, after being a devoted catholic for all of her childhood. Now, when she thought about it, maybe she had been too young and should’ve thought this more thoroughly.
She decided to put on a beautiful purple dress with a matching purse and green shoes. For a moment, Maureen thought she was going to look like an upside down eggplant, but then she decided to go for it. So what if people talked? That was better. This fifty two year old woman had not being able to use such rich colors back in the convent, and one of the things she looked forward as she left her former life was the use of many types of clothing and makeup. It seemed shallow but it was understandable after more than thirty years wearing always the same thing, and the same boring shoes.
She arrived at the dining hall just in time, as every single passenger was making their way into their respective tables. Maureen thanked God she didn’t have to look for a seat but instead only ask one of the waiters where she was supposed to seat. They had electronic screens where they checked it. After receiving directions, Maureen asked the waiter where could she find one of those screens. She was fascinated by the invention.
A few minutes later she was already siting between a Canadian couple and a lady from Moscow, who was a bit older than her. She started speaking in English to her and, to her surprise; the woman was fluent and very educated, telling her about her life in the Russian capital. Maureen didn’t want her to stop but the show had started on the stage they were facing and it was too good to miss.
As she watched the dancers, it was almost impossible not to think what would she be doing if she had still being a nun. At this hour of the night, probably sleeping or trying to at least. She used to love knitting and to embroider to calm her nerves, which always seemed restless. The doctor, one that came to the convent once per month to check on all the sisters, had given her some pills to calm that restlessness but she had never taken a single one. Something deep inside told her that she didn’t need that because her impatience, that weird energy inside of her was what she needed to keep on living.
Maybe it was because of this, or maybe not, but she started to have blood pressure problems just after learning that her mother and father had died. A horrible accident and half her family had disappeared, as if they had never existed. She still had a brother but he never went to the convent to visit her and talk. He had gone to college, got a great job abroad and the last thing she knew was that he had gotten married and had one child. As the dancers finished, she thought how much she would love to meet her nephew.
Maureen went on talking to the Russian lady and learned that her name was Valentina and that she was actually from Yekaterinburg, a city located in the Ural mountains of central Russia. She told Maureen about the harsh winters when she would stay inside for many days and enjoy lots of sweets because her parents said chocolate helped resist the cold. Valentina also told her about the trips along the river in the spring, when the water was so still and the flowers blossomed all over.
It was just magic listening to all of Valentina’s stories. She seemed like the kind of woman she would have liked to be: limitless, doing what she liked the most, enjoying her life fully. It isn’t that she had hated the convent or anything. Quite the opposite: she missed the sisterhood that she had left there. If there was something beautiful about being a nun, it was the fact that they took care of each other, every single day. But, nevertheless, she thought she would have liked to enjoy more of life, getting to do more things in life, experience new things.
That’s why, with the money she had inherited all those years ago, she had decided to take this cruise. She knew that a trip would make her happy beyond anything she had ever known. Because there was one thing she missed the most and that was people. Yes, she did do a lot for many people on the convent but always going back to those four walls, always helping but not really relating. That was her reason for leaving. She argued that God must want more of all of us, not only helping and be good but to be interested for real, to be there for each other. And she didn’t feel that she was doing that so she left to do it on her own.
But first, she had to do this trip. With Valentina, she toasted with champagne and was surprised at how nice it tasted. She had a couple more glasses and talked with her new friend about both their lives for hours, until the master of ceremonies took the stage to announce it was bedtime. The next day they were docking in Mykons and he advised everyone to have a good rest to enjoy a whole day in such a beautiful island. The two women complied and agreed to meet at the dock the following morning to scout the island and buy souvenirs to bring back home.
That night, Maureen was sad. She couldn’t sleep wither so she took out a small notebook from her suitcase and a pencil. When she couldn’t sleep now, she would also draw. She was not very good and didn’t do any drawings of what she actually saw. She thought the world was too beautiful as it was to be rendered ugly by her hand. So what Maureen did was drawing things that came up in her mind. She liked to think of them as cartoons although she didn’t think any child would understand them.
A child… Her nephew… That still hurt her so bad, being cut off from her family like that. She had called her brother after she left the convent. Her idea was to visit him first and them take the cruise but that wasn’t possible. Her brother told her she had decided to be cut off from them for a reason and now that their parents were gone, it didn’t make any sense to fuel a relationship that had been dead for so long. He argued that she had always thought of herself as special because of her devotion and that’s why she got to go away. For her brother, she had always been their parent’s favorite child and he had to live with that until he left the house.
Maureen knew that, on the phone call, Brian had tried hard not to be rude because it wasn’t in him to be like that. But he stated clearly that he couldn’t just forget all about his past to rekindle a relationship with someone he was sure he didn’t know well. So she would never meet her nephew or at least not very soon. She drew at least three pages until she realized it was past 2 AM. She left her notebook and pencil on the bedside table and forced herself into a restless sleep.
The following morning, she put on a nice flowery dress and sandals with a white hat and sunglasses to go down the dock and meet Valentina. She had not rested a bit but decided she couldn’t spoil her holiday just because of one bad night. The two women walked together along the beautiful streets and up and down stairs. They separated from the main group fast and explored many shops by themselves. They bought some presents and Valentina asked Maureen why she was taking so few. Maureen answered she was by herself now so it didn’t make any sense to buy many gifts.
At lunchtime, Valentina decided to stop walking around and invited her new friend for brunch at a nice café overlooking the bay of Mykonos. They had all the entrées, as a way to taste the most of the local food. They had fun asking what it all was and, afterwards, going to the archeological museum were they discussed art and politics. It was fun for Maureen because she had so much in her mind about so many subjects but she had never been able to talk to anyone about it. She had a lot of fun with Valentina and when it was time to get back to the boat, they decided to have a few drinks at the cruise lounge on the top deck.
When she got back to her cabin, Maureen had also decided to call her brother again. She did so disregarding any special fees. She didn’t care about prices or times. Maureen had to ask for forgiveness and try to get her family back to her because, if there was something to learn about her day with Valentina, it was that people are very important in everyone’s lives because they are the ones that make us feel alive. And who better to share your life with than your own family?