She had once vowed to never set foot outside the holy convent of St. Jude, and yet here she walked while the mist swirled around her, painting her dress with the wispy brushes of earth-bound clouds, making it all the colors Patricia was forbidden to wear. Dew-drops formed pearls in her hair, coloring her like a true fine lady ready to go to the ball.

As she walked, Patricia was unable to remember why exactly she'd left the convent. She'd known that such a crime was punishable by beating, but she had chosen to go out anyway. The very earth had called to her, and while Patricia had stood at her bedroom window, praying to the moon like a superstitious heathen, the world had called her name, and the wind had kissed her ears, saying, "Patricia, come, I want to play with you."

Then, stepping on solid bars of starlight that sneaked inside through her open window, Patricia could not walk of her own volition any longer, but instead slid on the slippery shoes of light that clung to her feet as they whisked her out her room, down the ancient stone staircase, and past the rooms where the nuns lived. Sister Theresa wouldn't be pleased. Sometimes, Patricia felt that the sister longed to beat her each time she did something wrong, and searched for any slight infraction of the rules so that she could engage in her favorite pastime. Her friends told her that she was paranoid, but Patricia realized the true sadism of the sister.

Now, she walked through a fog, unable to see her surroundings, the sky, or the earth. Patricia may as well have walked on a cloud, like the saints so often depicted throughout the convent. Although she had acted in disobedience and broken the rules, Patricia wondered for a moment if she might have ascended to heaven itself. Could one who flouted the rules such as she ever be honored with such a rare, holy gift as introduction to sainthood?

Unlikely.

Patricia knew that she was merely moving through a thick fog, but the wind still tugged at the corners of her dress, urging her forward toward a place where her destiny awaited. Her feet pressed against the earth, but now she knew that it wasn't the earth that had called her from her room, it was her future, which longed to meet her but had been unable to transgress the convent walls. They were timeless, and her future remained ever ahead.

When Patricia paused for a moment, she shivered in the damp cold of the fog that suddenly began to press around her, creeping down her throat to choke her and wrapping her fingers in numbing wet. Particularly, it pressed her forward, urging her onward in the direction she'd been walking before. Fearful of the danger she'd always heard of but had yet to face, Patricia wondered if she should turn back.

"Outside the convent lies a wicked world," Sister Theresa had always used to say. "The world at large is filled with sin and vice, and it constantly seeks to penetrate our sacred halls. Out there, you'll find yourself assaulted by the vain and the proud who will bring you down to their level. Idolaters and adulterers will poison your souls, and you will be unable to turn around without finding your morality constantly assaulted."

"What's adultery?" one of the girls had asked.

"A dirty evil act," Sister Theresa had answered.

Already aware of many of the evils of the world, Patricia hadn't needed to ask for clarification about any of the sins Sister Theresa had described. Despite her sheltered upbringing within the convent, Patricia had long been fascinated by those many actions that were forbidden her. Against the advice of Saint Theresa and many of the other nuns, Patricia had sought to learn more about evil works, to learn why people did them, if nothing else.

Despite all that, Patricia wasn't a bad girl. She loved God and Jesus, and after a single more year of training, she could take her holy vows and join the convent. Assuming, of course, that she wouldn't be penalized for leaving tonight. Not that she'd had any will as the wind had swept her outside, but somehow she felt a small measure of gilt.

A moment later, the bitter emotion was swept away as blue water that glowed and cut through the fog began to seep toward her, wetting her hair and washing away her misplaced blame. The water eased into her ears, and Patricia realized that she didn't hear water; that saving entity that moved toward her was a strange music she'd never heard before.

"Jazz," sighed the music, wisping the non-word like a horse flicking flies with its tail- almost a sound, but not quite. Instead, the word moved more like a brush rubbing a drum head to create that sighing- rasping- gravel rattling underfoot crumple.

"What's jazz?" Patricia asked aloud, addressing the glow that warmed the fog ahead. The moon had no answer, but the turquoise music crescendoed with a discordance Patricia had never heard before in music, but somehow, it didn't sound wrong. Jazz was meant to jar, to shake things up.

Many times, Patricia had heard the organ music drifting up through the cathedral, ringing its austere praises for all the countryside to hear, that they might see the error of the world outside and change their ways. Even though she'd been assured that she was doing her part to follow the ways set by the nuns, but even she had sometimes quivered with fear and awe at the implicit majesty and power of God as portrayed by the booming music.

This music was inherently different. While the other kinds of music were austere, this was playful, far less straightforward, Syncopation and discordance served to break every rule Patricia had ever learned about what constituted good music and what made noise.

"I have a secret," the music whispered.

"What is it?" Patricia wondered.

"Can't tell," answered the music, sighing the words in half a whisper. "If you know, it's not a secret anymore."

Following the whisper with a whine from a saxophone, the music abruptly shifted from the smooth taunting of the wispy drums and piano to an all-out dance, with trumpeting saxophones and slides that squeezed Patricia's stomach while her feet rebelled with their longing to dance.

Although she knew some at the convent disagreed, Patricia had never thought of dancing as a sin. On the contrary, she'd always thought it a natural expression of pure joy, and had often shut herself in her room after curfew to twirl and pirouette to music in her mind that only she could hear. She thought nothing would be inherently wrong if she took a few steps and let the music sweep her up just a bit, but she still feared the night and the loneliness of being outside the convent, and suddenly wanted more than anything else to turn back.

Her feet light against the earth as the notes lifted her up, Patricia turned around. The music begged her to stay, chanting her name and insisting, "Don't leave me, Patricia. I want to dance with you. I want to play with you." The night tugged at her elbows and her dress, and the fog thickened, hiding the way back all the more.

She remembered then that even in a magical space, time tends to move in a straightforward path, and no matter how long she walked, she could never go back to those few hours in the past. Never could Patricia take back leaving the convent, and she simply couldn't go back. Certainly, she would walk the same path, but all that would do would be to take her back to where she'd started. If she wanted to grow, she needed to move forward.

"Don't be afraid," the music crooned. "Come with me."

Even if she stood still, the world would keep spinning, and move her along with it. No matter what, Patricia was going to move, so she might as well pick her own path and face what lay ahead with something resembling bravery.

Triumphant, the sobs from the trumpet lifted her bodily, just as the starlight had done just a short while before. Borne on a sad melody, Patricia rocketed through the fog, her hair whipping around her face as the earth-bound cloud dissolved around her.

Finally, the music deposited her outside a door. Too many harmonies jangled against one another, crammed inside the old-fashioned brick building that stood before her. Warm yellow light glowed in the windows but failed to penetrate the blue night outside. Smoke drifted out a chimney to mingle with the fog and envelop tired travelers in the magical mist that could only be generated by a joyfully angry club such as this.

Glasses chinked and people laughed and the music circled the room while men sighed compliments to the pretty girls and asked them to dance and the waiters and waitresses asked for drink orders and brought whiskey and wine and cocktails and ice that sang against the rims of their confining glasses and longed to float across the room like all that less solid material in which it floated. Liquids could flow, and liquids were drunk and raced through veins bringing life and dancing and driving people wild while ice was frozen by its own cold nature, unable to move on its own.

All the noise jangled and rang and pushed against the door, eager to escape. For a moment, Patricia pressed her palms to her ears in hope that she could block out all the noise, but instead the vibrations just throbbed through her skin and rocked her brain. She knew what she had to do then, and Patricia pulled open the door.

With a shout of joy, the music escaped, filling the entire night, spreading all the way from the ground to the tip-top of the sky, where it ended and poetry began. All the songs that had been played that night separated themselves from one another so that each could be heard on its own. Then, they broke their position to rub over one another, as those songs were prone to do. The foreplay created new notes and new colors Patricia had never tasted before.

She entered the jazz club, where even more songs were being played. Thin and alone with eh door open and the acoustics wrong, Patricia closed the door for the song's sake, and the warm tones that rang from the piano washed over those who listened.

Never before had Patricia seen a place like the club, but the moonlight told her that the name of the club was Sarah's. Nobody named Sarah had ever owned the club or worked there or had much of anything to do with the club except sometimes performing and maybe patronizing it a time or two, but that was what the club was called.

Dingy lights illuminated the room while people dressed in black nodded to the swirling music, and a singer whose words were slightly slurred by drink sang nonsense words into the microphone. "Ba da ba bo bee-bop, za da blue da. Ma bo ba ba gra ni wa. Waaaaaaaaa." His voice had the graveled texture of one who had begun smoking too young, but he pushed the words out past his seared throat, and drinks were poured all around while connoisseurs acknowledged the man's talent.

The red scat punched through Patricia's heart, stealing a small bit of the blood that was bumped through and giving real life to the music, forming it into a beautiful lady who danced through the tables, drawing the attention of both men and women in the bar. A brunette in a tight black dress rose from her seat, leaving her glass on the table to sway against the jazz woman.

Stepping through a wall of cigarette smoke, Patricia officially entered the unofficial dance floor and sat at a side table, resting in a rickety chair. When the song concluded, the woman disappeared, and the human one, looking a little less real, resumed her seat.

"What do you want?" a rough woman asked, speaking through her nose during the short break between songs.

"Peace on earth," Patricia wondered, unaware that she even made a joke with her response. After endless days spent at the convent discussing theological paradoxes, the automatic answer rose to Patricia's lips with little thought.

Surprisingly, the woman laughed at Patricia's answer, then clarified, "What do you want to drink, Miss America?"

"Oh," Patricia answered. "Milk?"

"We don't serve milk," the waitress practically spat.

Intrigued at the idea of indulging herself, Patricia felt a slight stench of greed as she requested a little-tasted treat. "What soda do you have?"

After listening to the selections, Patricia placed her order, then lost herself in the jazz once more. When the song completed, foggy mists of echoing notes dispersed against the ceiling, leaving Patricia's world for that of memory.

The waitress placed Patricia's meal on her table, and the girl waited for the next song to play, up until the musicians stepped away from the stage to walk out onto the dance floor. "What's going on?" Patricia demanded.

"Even musicians need a break," the waitress responded. "Don't worry, the music will start up again in ten minutes or so."

"Oh," Patricia breathed.

"You know, Russ is staring at you," the waitress announced, lingering at Patricia's table although she had a tray of drinks balanced on her arm.

"Who's Russ?" asked Patricia.

With a smirk and a chuckle, the waitress disappeared without answering. Meanwhile, the piano player from before appeared behind Patricia, exuding the stench of old whisky and golden light that remained from the fire he'd lit when his fingers had exploded over his instrument a few short minutes ago. "May I sit here?' he asked.

Despite her distaste at his dirty appearance and his stench, Patricia remembered that she'd been called as a Christian to love all those around her. Thus, against her better judgment, she answered, "Go ahead, I don't mind."

With a suave smile and a step around the table that was almost dance, Russ pulled back a chair to sit at Patricia's side. The yellow smell wrapped around her face, and Patricia fought back the urge to gag. "What're you drinking?" he asked, and without waiting for an answer or permission, he lifted Patricia's glass of soda and took a long sip. When he set it aside, she pushed it away with no desire to drink it after his lips had touched it.

"That's got no kick at all," Russ complained.

"It's just a soda," Patricia replied.

"Why don't you let me buy you a real drink?" Russ offered. He reached into his pocket as if to demonstrate that he truly had the money on him to pay for it.

"No thank you," Patricia replied, trying to keep her obvious distaste from her voice and just barely succeeding.

"It would be my pleasure," Russ assured her.

"I don't drink," Patricia told him.

Slightly taken aback, Russ gasped in mock horror and cried, "A jazz fan who doesn't drink alcohol? Impossible."

"Hardly," Patricia replied. "Besides, I'm not actually a jazz fan, so to speak. This is the first time in my life I've actually heard jazz music."

"Really?" Russ replied. Although his words expressed surprise, Russ seemed little more than mildly amused by the pronouncement. "And what do you think?"

"It's almost magical," Patricia replied. As she spoke, however, she noticed that the magic had faded away the moment the music had stopped. She'd met her purpose that had waited for her that night, and now that something seemingly important had happened when she'd heard the music, all of that strange sense of calling from before was gone.

"You know, I'm with the musicians," Russ said.

"I know," Patricia answered. Envisioning once more the way the music had loved him and swirled away again, she smiled. "You played piano, right?"

"That's right," Russ answered even as the waitress set a cocktail before him. Russ downed it in one group, then announced, "I'm Russ, by the way."

"Patricia," she responded, offering her hand to shake. At the last possible moment, she remembered to sit up straight to demonstrate that she was indeed a good girl, just as Sister Theresa had taught her. Strangely, Russ laughed at the behavior.

He pumped her arm once, then whispered, "You know, I'm staying not too far from here for a few weeks. Would you like to swing by room 223 at the Downtown Inn later tonight?"

"I'll think about it," Patricia murmured rather than risk offending the man by telling him what she really thought of the offer.

"I'll be waiting," Russ responded, although Patricia was unclear whether he was joking as a response to her distaste, or if he'd missed the sarcasm. She didn't want to appear to be rude, and failed to clarify the situation.

For the next few minutes, Russ bragged to Patricia about his past exploits, and while she tried to act in a way that was loving, even she soon searched for any excuse to leave, he announced, "Well, I'd better get back to the music," and left her.

When Russ left, Patricia relaxed to listen to the music. Despite her immediate dislike of the musician, she told herself that he didn't necessarily represent the others who played, and even if he did, she didn't need to let that ruin her enjoyment of the music.

Now, however, the light glowed a little less brightly, and the saxophone notes didn't lift her from her seat quite as smoothly as they had before. Whatever had been meant to happen must have happened already, and while Patricia didn't feel as if she'd changed, she also knew that nothing new would happen were she to remain at the jazz club.

Now, the moon and the first bright rays of the soon-to-rise sun ate away at the fog and illuminated Patricia's path back to the convent. Gleaming speckled stones lined the way through the grass up to her home. She strode barefoot over the empty earth, and when she found the convent, Patricia discovered that soft slippers had been left for her by the starlight that had escorted her out the night before. She slipped them on so that her feet wouldn't have to touch the cold stone floor of her home.

Her head touched a soft pillow, and in a moment, she was asleep. The next, church bells began to ring, and she arose again.

The most striking aspect of Patricia's resume of life at the convent was the complete lack of color. Ordinary windows cast visions of the blue sky and yellow sun outside, but each ray of golden light that warmed the convent became sick grey as it reached through the window.

The only hint of color that had ever gleamed within was the bright stained glass windows depicting the lives of the saints and the stations of the cross, and while the rich colors had long cheered Patricia throughout her life, they now seemed muted as compared to the living light of the outside world. Sometimes gilded gold glittered in the church, but not always.

Moving through her day as she normally did, Patricia first dressed and reported to mass. She confessed, elaborating upon her escape the night before, and after receiving the absolution, she partook of Holy Communion, worshipping the daily miracle that she was such a certain part of. While she sat, she remembered the rules she'd broken the night before, and wondered if she was a hypocrite.

Next followed the worst and unarguably most boring part of Patricia's daily routine; her lessons. Patricia was only one year shy of taking her holy vows and becoming another nun at the convent, but while she remained a child and an uneducated one at that, she daily reported to school where she received instruction not only in the ways of the church and God, which she found fascinating, but also in mind-numbingly boring topics such as advanced math and biological life sciences and American literature before the nine-teen fifties and European history.

Fearing she would fall asleep at her desk after her long night, Patricia sat on edge during the first lessons, as alert as possible. Nevertheless, Sister Theresa somehow penetrated her fa├žade and noted that something had changed in Patricia's demeanor. After choir, the sister pulled Patricia aside and asked, "What's wrong?"

Never a liar or a willing sinner, Patricia answered, "Nothing's wrong, really. I'm just a bit tired; I couldn't sleep last night."

"Why not?" the teacher asked, showing an unlikely compassion to the student.

"I was forced to leave the convent," Patricia responded. "Starlight swept me up and carried me to a jazz club, and fate refused to release me until near dawn."

"Troubling circumstances," Sister Theresa mused. "Troubling indeed that starlight and fate should intrude upon your life; rarely do such spirits tempt the good, who can resist their wiles. It is those with a propensity toward evil who get swept up in their mysticism."

"Oh, sister, no!" wailed Patricia. "I'm not evil; I never asked to get swept up by the magic!"

"Some part of you must have wanted it," Theresa assured her. "Patricia, you need to pray especially hard tonight that the Lord won't allow you to fall into temptation. If you do so with a pure heart, God will be merciful and save you from this starlight and music."

"Yes, Sister Theresa," Patricia sighed with bowed head.

That night, with every intention of doing right, Patricia knelt beside her bed and recited the same prayers she did every night. Remembering with distaste the smell and the debauchery that had clung to every rafter of the bar.

Despite her best intentions, however, Patricia didn't pray hard enough to stop the light from seeping in through the window. Now, the stars came in, too, and danced around Patricia, painting her plain white dress with glitter and blue and pink that dripped down the folds.

"Come with us," the stars sang.

"I can't," Patricia answered.

"Oh, come on," the star insisted, and two grabbed her legs while two grabbed her arms. Now, they didn't even bother to bring her down the stairs or out the door, but instead lifted her and squeezed her through the grated bars, and carried her high over the city, gleaming in the moonlight.

Soon, the glowing colors of jazz music wrapped around her body, caressing her with their smooth saxophone lines and an occasional soft crash from a cymbal. They almost tickled, but at the same time, they felt so nice, she had to throw her head back in rapture as the notes slid under her dress, and Patricia pushed them away, saying "Stop it!"

For a second, the stars abandoned her, and Patricia sailed of her own accord. A second later, the stars returned, and carried Patricia low that she might see the lights of the city as she swept over it. The night before, she'd missed much of the view due to the fog, but now she gasped in awe at the beauty she sailed over.

They reached the jazz club, burning with bright music, but didn't sail. "Hey, what's going on?" Patricia demanded as the club was left behind.

"It's too late for that," the stars answered, their words ripped away by the wind so that a hollow hole existed between their mouths and Patricia's ear. Exhausted, the words reached her and died there.

"I don't understand," Patricia complained.

"You will soon," the stars assured her.

The chilly night winds raged around Patricia, trying to rip her to shreds for invading their night. The stars warmed her as a means of protection, and Patricia dropped to swirl around the bell that sat atop a public school. "Come, come," the stars urged, and she resumed her path.

When she reached the run-down hotel, Patricia understood exactly where she was headed, and resisted for half a moment. All those around her pressed her forward, however, and a drum's multi-colored light pried the window open so that Patricia could enter.

A second later, she stood alone on the floor, bereft of her starlit friends or the colors from the music. The sound of a toilet flushing sounded from the other room, followed by that of water running, and shutting off. After a second, Russ stepped out of his restroom to see Patricia in his room.

"What are you doing here?" he demanded, and even though he spoke rather than sang, Patricia saw his glowing words spill from his mouth, glittering and white, and only existent a moment before dissipating on an unseen wind. A slight alcoholic tint stained the words, but now, it wasn't strong enough that Patricia found it distasteful. In fact, Russ seemed infinitely more attractive to her now.

"I don't know," Patricia answered. "I'm just. . .here." Half a second, and she thought he might demand a further explanation. Patricia wished that the light and the stars hadn't abandoned her with no excuse or explanation.

Stepping out of the shadow and into the light, Russ surveyed Patricia. A glint of starlight reflected in his eye, then disappeared, leaving them alone together again. "I've seen you before," he proclaimed. "Last night. You're. . .that girl."

"I'm Patricia," she answered. Suddenly, she realized that Russ was completely naked, bereft even of a towel. Water dripped from his hair and chest to sizzle on the carpet.

"I'm Russ," he said.

"I know," she answered.

A moment later, they'd jumped from the floor to Russ's bed, where ordinary white sheets against a sleek black bed frame felt rough against Patricia's skin, especially as Russ's exploring fingers crawled underneath her nightgown to feel the curve of her leg.

"Stop, stop," Patricia pleaded, but her words died in her throat when his gleaming blue eyes gazed into hers, and the sweet music from his throat flowed out his mouth and into her own so that she could sing, followed by his tongue and his lips that pressed against hers in a seal that prevented the music from escaping as it jangled in her brain growing louder and louder until she thought her mind would explode, her eyes bugged out and she fell back to scream, and she knew what she did was wrong and Sister Theresa would look at her with so much disappointment from then on forever but she had to tell Sister Theresa because what she did was wrong, and she didn't want to stop but she had to because it was wrong, but then she lost the opportunity to speak because it was over and they lay naked together beside one another.

"What just happened?" she gasped into the dark night, but Russ didn't answer because he'd fallen asleep. At some point, they'd pulled the blinds shut, and although the starlight had demonstrated earlier that it could easily pool through the slats, it was gone now, and the room felt very dark.

No more music played anywhere.

Overcome with guilt and confusion, Patricia picked up her clothes and dressed, too ashamed to risk seeing Russ again when he awakened. Cold, Patricia walked through the misty night, and dew clung to her clothing when she reached the convent. The entire way, the world looked black and white and unfamiliar as it hadn't in the past, and Patricia shivered and hugged herself to protect against the cold.

The first color she witnessed was that of the saints on the stained glass windows, and it gave Patricia a small measure of comfort, that not all was lost, as she trod over the cold brick up to her room. This time, no shoes waited for her, and her feet froze atop the solid-ice brick stairs that led up into her room. Exhausted once more, Patricia fell into a troubled sleep.

After hours of nightmares, Patricia awoke when Sister Theresa's wrinkled, gentle hand caressed her cheek, and Patricia realized she'd somehow slept through all the bells and the morning mass. "I'm sorry," she whispered.

"Shh," Sister Theresa sighed. "You're very ill, Patricia. It's the walking at night, in the cold. We've called the doctors, but you're in a great deal of trouble."

"I'm sorry," Patricia replied, tears forming in her eyes. "I didn't mean to cause trouble; it just happened. I'm not a bad person."

"She's delirious," Sister Theresa called, unaware of Patricia's evil actions the night before. "Bring me a cool towel so we can bring her temperature down." Someone unseen noisily ran from the room, presumably to follow Sister Theresa's orders. Unable to stay awake to see what would happen next, Patricia sank back into sleep.

Her fever didn't break until that evening, when her only attendant was asleep and Patricia was alone with herself and her thoughts. With a gasp, Patricia burned away her fever and sat up in her bed, quite suddenly awake and healthy.

Careful so as not to disturb the sleeping nun who had been caring for her and betray her secret betrayal, Patricia padded across the room to peer out her window. Where a few nights before the moon had been full, it now waned. "Where are you?" she called, for while she could see her friends the stars in the skies, none of them drifted down to see her as they once had.

Once more pulled by fate, Patricia now acknowledged that she had the choice to stay within the convent where she'd be kept safe from both the good and the bad, and she was aware that only she was responsible for choosing to move forward. Just as the fog had anointed her the first time Patricia had left the convent, now it blurred her way, trying to stop her from breaking the spell. Determined to be undeterred, she thrust the wispy cloud aside to continue her journey.

When the ringing music found her, it lacked color and light. The jazz was just as playful and as stylistic as it had been before, but now it lacked the mystery of before. Now, the jazz was nothing more than just music.

Although she couldn't see it, Patricia could still hear the sounds and follow them to the club that waited for her. As she had that first night, Patricia stood outside and surveyed the brick building, but now it was just another club. No magic could justify what she'd done, for the world was still the world, and Patricia still lived in it.

Nevertheless, she entered. A pianist danced in her own seat even as her fingers flew over the keys, and the same patrons from the night before nodded along to the beat in their seat. Murmurs mingled with the music, jarring its purity and ruining the tune that rang in Patricia's ears.

"Hey! Patty, right?" a nasally voice called.

Patricia turned around to see the waitress from the night before. "You," Patricia gasped, followed by, "My name is Patricia."

"Right, of course," the waitress said with a crooked grin. "I didn't think you'd be here tonight. I thought we'd all scared you off, what with Russ putting his moves on you and what-not."

"No, I'm not scared," Patricia assured her. "Speaking of Russ, though, is he playing tonight?"

Pity colored the waitress's eyes, and she crooned, "Oh, honey. I'm sorry. He didn't give you the 'I'll love you forever and never leave you,' speech, did you?"

"No," Patricia answered, startled that Russ might actually intentionally mislead a woman romantically. "We didn't really do much talking at all."

"You poor thing," the waitress sighed. "Russ left town earlier today. Swung by the club to pick up some equipment, and took off."

"He left town," Patricia repeated in astonishment. The room seemed to momentarily fade away. "I don't understand. Was it me? Why did he go?"

"It didn't have anything to do with you," the waitress replied, placing a comforting hand on Patricia's shoulder. "I hate that you have to find out this way. Russ is scum, not to tell you. He's a musician; he travels. He's just moved on to a new club."

"So, he's just traveling some sort of circuit, then," Patricia announced, hopeful. "He'll be back here, then, right?"

"Someday, maybe," the waitress allowed. "Maybe not. He's not scheduled to play for us for a while. It'll probably be months before he's back, at the very least. Probably years." As tears began to trickle down Patricia's cheeks, the waitress added, "He's not worth waiting around for, sweetheart. Best you forget about him and find a man who'll really care about you."

Sobbing, Patricia broke the hug, pulled away from the waitress, and thanked her for the information and the advice. Then, she fled the club, the waitress watching her leave and thinking her little more than a stupid girl who'd let herself believe another easy lie.

Returning to the convent before the midnight bell had even chimed, Patricia wiped tears from her eyes and bit back sobs surely loud enough to wake all the other girls as she sprinted up the stairs to her room for the third night in a row. Throwing open her door, Patricia flung herself onto her bed and sobbed, too aware of what she'd lost.

When she was finished with her tears, Patricia looked up to the crucifix that hung above her bed. Jesus somehow managed to look loving even as he hung in pain, and although Patricia knew this decoration to be only an artist's rendering, she took comfort in the remembrance of all the things she'd been taught. With a sigh, she said aloud, "God is everywhere."

Therein lay her answer. While she had done wrong, Patricia was not too far gone from redemption; far from it, in fact. What she needed most was to get out and live, and resist the temptations to which she'd already fallen. She'd fallen too far to continue her course at the convent, but life still awaited outside.

Moving through gleaming starlight without listening to its call, Patricia finished packing her bag, and left again.

The end.