It was the voice that had driven the fear of God into hundreds of students each year for the last 20 years.
The three tenth grade girls stood frozen under the plum tree, afraid to move. Becca started whimpering and instantly dropped the plastic bag containing the illicit goods they had already picked. A tiny scream escaped Jackie’s lips. Her pulse was racing so fast, her entire body felt as if it were vibrating independently.
“Oh my god! Do you think she recognized us?” she gasped.
Her twin sister, Karen, always calm under pressure, hissed at them:
“Shush, you two! Let me think!”
They were in the copse behind the convent, far from the high school buildings, and designated “OUT OF BOUNDS” according to the sign posted just at the entrance.
But the plums were so perfectly sweet and inviting! And no one else ate them! Surely God put them here next to the convent so others could enjoy them.
The wooded area was densely filled with all types of fruit trees. Once inside, it offered great concealment, unless you were seen entering the woods from one of the convent windows upstairs, as the girls were.
Under normal circumstances, any student caught in the restricted areas of the school grounds would be given a warning, maybe detention, and would dissuade them from trying this stunt again. But not these three.
Sister Valentina had already rounded them up once, perhaps two years ago, and let them off with a warning. The second time they each received a detention. A third offense would certainly have them suspended or even expelled from the St. Francis High (Boarding) School for Girls.
Karen, Jackie, and Becca were not “bad” students. On the contrary, they were B-Average students, active members of the school community, and involved in various social outreach programs sponsored by the school. But they somehow still managed to find time to disregard several of the school rules that they felt were unimportant.
For instance, the rules explicitly forbade any students to go wandering through the mall stores after school while still dressed in their uniforms. These three managed to get themselves caught on more than one occasion by teachers, and were only saved from punishment the following day because the teachers probably didn’t think much of the rule either.
Once they’d almost been caught smoking outside the 11th grade block after hours and had just enough time to slip away from the scene before Sister Tarcissia rounded the corner to where they had just vacated. She still didn’t quite understand what that smoke smell was about.
They constantly broke the rule about signing into the dormitories by 4:00 pm. Sister Emmanuelle had no idea that half the time someone else was signing in for them and for many of the other boarders too.
The situation they now faced with Sister Valentina approaching was another serious matter indeed! What would their parents say if they were all expelled?
Suddenly, Karen yelled: “Run for it!” and sped off through the woods in the opposite direction from Sister Valentina’s voice.
Jackie and Becca hightailed it behind her at top speed, neither one daring to look back. No one paid any attention to the tree branches as they swished across their faces and chests.
By the time Sister Valentina arrived on the scene, all that remained were three half empty bags of plums abandoned on the ground.