Nobody knew how she did it, yet Sister Angela’s embroidery was the best in the country, admired even in Vatican. Her works were bringing a handsome income to the convent, so they let her at it without any disturbance. She was excused from daily prayers, and kept away from visitors. She was a bit odd. Nuns didn’t speak to her to avoid difficult questions. Simple ‘Good morning’ was met with ‘What makes you think that?’ The most pious ones were tested as after their ‘God bless’ they heard ‘Who?’ Angela was happy in her cell. The secret to her unmatched skill had nothing to do with divine inspiration. It was a technique she developed over the years, practised for decades, and never revealed to anyone.
Angela was embroidering naked. There were many benefits – unrestricted movement to reach all the corners, good ventilation during long hours at work, better feel for any knots or imperfections to be mended. Of course there were quite few cuts and pricks at the start, but she mastered the method quickly and developed some useful tricks, like holding spare needles and scissors between her toes. To achieve the right tension of the fabric she was placing it underneath her saggy breasts. How did she come up with this idea? Why would anyone risk exposing so much skin so close to sharp objects? It started about fifty years ago. She shamed her family name by having an affair with a gardener. After they had been discovered between the roses, she was sent to become a nun. The boy soon found another job, at the convent. Their love bloomed. There were times well before sexting, so she signalled her lover by putting her drawers in the window. He climbed a ladder and they were naked together. To have an alibi she learnt to sew in every position at an even pace with a steady hand. The thrill of secrecy kept their passion alive for decades. They had a good life together. Until last Thursday.
That afternoon sister Angela removed her frock and threaded a needle. Soon after the gardener entered through the window, got entangled in the nun’s underwear and dropped to the floor with a bang that sent bits of the ceiling to a soup in the kitchen below.
‘Every. Fecking. Time,’ Angela raised her eyes to the heavens.
‘Forgive me, my love,’ Jesus kissed her knee.
She worked on a new composition with water lilies for a cardinal and didn’t notice her lover was pale and more clumsy than usual. It was almost dark when he put his clothes back on, climbed the windowsill and blew her a kiss.
‘My honey bunny. Sleep well…’ He lost his balance, grabbed the window frame, was safe for a second, but then the old wood came of the wall. He fell on a hassock and the window smashed on top of him.
‘How many times did I tell you to be careful?’ Angela turned around. The gardener was unconscious. Blood covered the floor. She removed pieces of stained glass and stopped the bleeding with a brand new altar cloth. She closed his wounds with a golden thread, making sure that she stuck to straight lines without any Bible quotations.
‘Sister Angela,’ there was a knock at the door, ‘are you coming for dinner?’
‘No! I’m doing my penance – extra flogging tonight.’
The nun in the corridor sighed in not-so-silent judgement, but Angela took no notice and made the last stitches. Jesus was now a work of art – cleaned with holy water, covered in golden lines with only few leaves embroidered onto his skin. It didn’t make him much better though. His eyes were closed and breath shallow. She considered if a prayer would help. Then a bright light filled the room. A small figure appeared where the window used to be.
‘Sorry we’re late. Traffic was really bad.’ It shook its head.
Angela was blinking. She had never seen anything like it. Her brain was processing all the altars, Bible illustrations, paintings, and stained windows in her memory. The little green man wasn’t an angel, saint, nor a daemon.
‘We come in peace,’ it smiled. ‘We’ve got your signal.’
‘Underwear in the window.’
‘We saw your panties 50 years ago and we tried to get here as soon as possible. We noticed that it was urgent – the underwear was getting bigger and bigger with each passing light year.’ Then the alien noticed the gardener. ‘I can help him on my ship. Let’s go. Put some clothes on, will you?’
Now that you know the truth, please keep it to yourselves. Sisters love the stories about Saint Angela who, in a beam of light, was taken body and soul to Heaven and before that so often in her cell, she screamed for Jesus to love her harder.