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Sands of Time(18)
Author: Sidney Sheldon

Father Berrendo said, "It's up to you, my child. If you like, I will take you to meet the Reverend Mother Prioress."

Graciela nodded. "All right."

The Reverend Mother studied the face of the young girl before her. Last night for the first time in many, many years she had heard the voice. A young child will come to you. Protect her. "How old are you, my dear?"


She's old enough. In the fourth century the pope decreed that girls could be permitted to become nuns at the age of twelve.

"I'm afraid," Graciela said to the Reverend Mother Betina.

I'm afraid. The words rang in Betina's mind: I'm afraid...

That had been so many long years ago. She was speaking to her priest. "I don't know if I have a calling for this, Father. I'm afraid."

"Betina, the first contact with God can be very disturbing, and the decision to dedicate your life to Him is a difficult one."

How did I find my calling? Betina wondered.

She had never been even faintly interested in religion. As a young girl she had avoided church and Sunday School. In her teens she was more interested in parties and clothes and boys. If her friends in Madrid had been asked to select possible candidates to become a nun, Betina would have been at the bottom of the list. More accurately, she would not even have been on their list. But when she was nineteen, events started to happen that changed her life.

She was in her bed, asleep, when a voice said, "Betina, get up and go outside."

She opened her eyes and sat up, frightened. She turned on the bedside lamp and realized she was alone. What a strange dream.

But the voice had been so real. She lay down again, but it was impossible to go back to sleep.

"Betina, get up and go outside."

It's my subconscious, she thought. Why would I want to go outside in the middle of the night?

She turned out the light and a moment later turned it on again. This is crazy.

But she put on a robe and slippers and went downstairs. The household was asleep.

She opened the kitchen door, and as she did a wave of fear swept over her, because somehow she knew that she was supposed to go out the back into the yard. She looked around in the darkness, and her eye caught a glint of moonlight shining on an old refrigerator that had been abandoned and was used to store tools.

Betina suddenly knew why she was there. She walked over to the refrigerator as though hypnotized, and opened it. Her three-year-old brother was inside, unconscious.

That was the first incident. In time, Betina rationalized it as a perfectly normal experience. I must have heard my brother get up and go out into the yard, and I knew the refrigerator was there, and I was worried about him, so I went outside to check.

The next experience was not so easy to explain. It happened a month later.

In her sleep, Betina heard a voice say, "You must put out the fire."

She sat up, wide awake, her pulse racing. Again, it was impossible to go back to sleep. She put on a robe and slippers and went into the hallway. No smoke. No fire. She opened her parents' bedroom door. Everything was normal there. There was no fire in her brother's bedroom. She went downstairs and looked through every room. There was no sign of a fire.

I'm an idiot, Betina thought. It was only a dream.

She went back to bed just as the house was rocked by an explosion. She and her family escaped, and the firemen managed to put out the fire.

"It started in the basement," a fireman explained, "and a boiler exploded."

The next incident happened three weeks later. This time it was no dream.

Betina was on the patio reading when she saw a stranger walking across the yard. He looked at her and in that instant she felt a malevolence coming from him that was almost palpable. He turned away and was gone.

Betina was unable to get him out of her mind.

Three days later, she was in an office building, waiting for the elevator. The elevator door opened, and she was about to step into it when she looked at the elevator operator. It was the man she had seen in her garden. Betina backed away, frightened. The elevator door closed and the elevator went up. Moments later, it crashed, killing everyone in it.

The following Sunday, Betina went to church.

Dear Lord, I don't know what's going on here, and I'm scared Please guide me and tell me what you want me to do.

The answer came that night as Betina slept. The voice said one word. Devotion.

She thought about it all night, and in the morning she went to talk to the priest.

He listened intently to what she had to say.

"Ah. You are one of the fortunate ones. You have been chosen."

"Chosen for what?"

"Are you willing to devote your life to God, my child?"

"I - I don't know. I'm afraid."

But in the end, she joined the convent.

I chose the right path, the Reverend Mother Betina thought, because I have never known so much happiness...

And now here was this battered child saying, "I'm afraid."

The Reverend Mother took Graciela's hand. "Take your time, Graciela. God won't go away. Think about it and come back and we can discuss it."

But what was there to think about? I've nowhere else in the world to go, Graciela thought. And the silence would be welcome. I have heard too many terrible sounds. She looked at the Reverend Mother and said, "I will welcome the silence."

That had been seventeen years earlier, and since then Graciela had found peace for the first time. Her life was dedicated to God. The past no longer belonged to her. She was forgiven the horrors she had grown up with. She was Christ's bride, and at the end of her life, she would join Him.

As the years passed in deep silence, despite the occasional nightmares, the terrible sounds in her mind gradually faded away.

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