The still air around Awatovi smelled like trouble. It was an unusually muggy day. While the other children were in school Kenda worked on her punishment. The girl was kneeling, grinding corn into flour. In awe of the Reverend Mother, who sat in a chair next to her, the nun read the Bible aloud for Kenda’s benefit. The twelve-year-old girl watched the nun from the corner of her eye. Somehow, the stature of the woman bent over her reading appeared strange. From the moment, the Sisters arrived in Kenda’s village of Awatovi, the girl believed Mother Superior resembled an angel except for the scars on her left cheek. The Mother Superior stood heads above the sisters who came with her. Inhaling and searching for courage Kenda finally spoke. “Mother, may I ask a question of you?” Receiving no answer, Kenda pushed forward.
“Mother, how old were you when God called you to a life of service?” Kenda kept her eyes on her work waiting for an answer.
“Much younger than you, my child. I was a baby when The Lady of Grace took me into God’s world. As my education grew, I felt the calling from our Lord. Why do you ask? Are you thinking of a taking a vow of poverty?” Mother Superior fought the urge to brush Kenda’s hair out of her eyes. After all these years, Reverend Mother had yet to overcome her aversion to touching the albino children of the Hopi placed in her care.
“No Mother. I’ve heard no call. I am unworthy.”
“Then you must work harder to live a pious life. Sister Angela tells me you are a fine student with a head for Latin. The Monsignor’s lessons must be more than adequate. Do not forget, God is the one who bestowed such a quick mind on you. Kenda. You are still young. The day may come when you will want a husband and children. Rearing good Catholics for the Church may be the place where God wishes for you to serve.” Kenda sucked in her lower lip at the mention of children. Like the other children living in the Pueblo, they witnessed many matings and births of the animals. Though sheltered from the length of time the goats carried their kids before giving birth. She must tell the Monsignor of her sin.
“Kenda is it not the time for your lessons?”
“Yes, Reverend Mother. I will complete my work when I return.” She lay the grinding stone on its resting place beside her, brushing her skirt as she stood. “Mother, I have one more question for you. It is a private matter.”
“Have you not been punished enough for the questioning of a personal nature? I will answer one more question. It will be up to me to decide if you should have an answer.”
“First, I must say God has blessed you with a beautiful voice. You make me believe I can see God when you sing. What I wish to ask is, how did your face become scarred? Were you in an accident?”
“I will not give you all of the answers. It is improper and without merit. You make me
believe as if your punishment should have been harsher. That is all you need to know. Kenda, you are much too young to understand the torments of a woman’s life. It is time for you to go. You have completed your reprimand. What I want you to do now, is take the younger ones to confession. It will give you an opportunity to pray about your behavior.”
“Yes, Mother.” She bowed her head upon standing. Once she had her back to the nun, Kenda ran her hands down her stomach. She did not know for sure if Mother Superior could tell if she were carrying a child. Filled with questions, she doubted her childish calculations on when her sin would be apparent to all. What Kenda knew for sure is she must tell the Monsignor today.
The stone floors in the rectory were cool to her sandaled feet as she padded her way to the altar. Lighting a candle for her unborn child, she crossed herself and fell to her knees.
“Kenda, is this your day for confession? Your class is not due until tomorrow. You seem very serious in your prayers. Did we need to speak?” The Monsignor stood at her back. “Yes, Monsignor we do.” Her eyes locked on the cross holding the body of her Lord which hung behind the altar. Without turning she asked, “Father, are you sure the Lord forgives our sins?”
“Of course, child. He died for all of us.” Kenda’s mind wandered, while he retold her the story of Christ.
Born in the village of Pueblo Awatovi in 1531, Kenda was nine when the Conquistadors captured the community, ten when the church forced her to convert to Catholicism and eleven when The Monsignor made her his lover. Every time he touched her, they spent intervals before and after lovemaking on their knees grinding them into the stone floor. Like the crucifixion, he said they must bleed to be worthy of God’s forgiveness. The callouses they bore on their knees bore witness that they met often met for a rendezvous.
“Father, I feel the need to confess again. Will you be with me in the confessional?”
“Certainly.” The Monsignor crossed himself before making his way into the tiny cubicle. Kenda’s nerves felt as if they were the corn kernels she had been grinding. “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been three days since my last confession.”
“Surely, your sins cannot be large ones in such a short space in time.”
“My sin was committed months ago. I’ve kept my secret from everyone, but God.”
“Kenda, what have you done?”
“I think I am with child; your child. I do not know what to do. Oh please, help me Monsignor. I will be cast aside to die with my baby.”
“How could you be so foolish to allow this to happen?”
“I do not know of womanly things. Is God punishing me because I am a woman?”
“Yes, he punishes all women. And like God, I will not fail you. Kenda, you must do everything I say. When you leave here go pack your belongings. Two other priests and I are leaving for Acoma today. Tell the Reverend Mother you are to go with us as a translator. Tell her you don’t know how long you will be gone. Tell her it is a mission from God, then meet us in the front of the chapel in two hours. Now go.”
With the swish of the curtain, Kenda fled. She packed before she left out in search for the Reverend Mother. Kenda interrupted the nun’s morning prayers and relayed the Monsignor’s message. She turned the corner near the chapel. Kenda gasped to find the massive horde of people gathered for the trip. A slave helped her mount a small donkey. “How long will we travel?” Kenda asked the boy who would lead her ride.
“We will travel many nights. You will be safe with us. See the many Conquistadors? They will protect us on this holy journey. There are also many soldiers who are to meet us in Acoma. Girl, I’ve heard our people whisper that you are a shaman for your white hair and pink eyes. Is this true?” The train jumped to attention.
“Boy, you must not speak of such things. I know only what God allows me to know.”
“Do you know that woman waving at you?” The slave nodded to their right.
“Yes,” Kenda waved her own hand in return. “She is my mother. I did not get to say goodbye.” She stopped looking back when they rounded a Butte. Kenda wondered if she would see her parents again.
The caravan traveled down out of the mountains. Dense banana and plantain trees were so thick their leaves held the lands’ humidity in place making the heat unable to rise into the atmosphere. Kenda did not feel the heat until they dropped to the desert floor. She had never traveled outside of her Pueblo and could not stop trying to peer in all directions at once. The flowering cacti were the most stunning things she had ever seen. They reminded her of the relationship with the Monsignor; that flowers can hold barbs.
They traveled until the sun was high in the sky. At dusk, three slaves erected two tents; one for the Monsignor and one for her. Kenda slept little that night. Running her hand down the tent material, she visualized running her hands down the Monsignor’s skin on his back.
Without anyone to explain why her body responded to sexual foreplay, Kenda pushed her emotions aside. Her secrets also gave her a feeling of power over her lover. It also thrilled her to know the other girls would be envious the day her of her wedding to the Monsignor. Not once, did it cross her mind there would be no forthcoming nuptials. The Monsignor had not limited what Kenda knew about being a sexual woman. The deeds he demonstrated for her to perform turned her body hot that stayed with her throughout the night. Somewhere close to daybreak, Kenda fell asleep.