She stands out in the crowd of teenagers under the late summer sun, her demure cotton dresses and hesitant gentleness odd against their casual obscenities and tight jeans. The books clutched to her chest press her crucifix painfully into her skin. In those initial weeks she retreats often into the oak-panelled solace of her room, its medieval stone walls muffling the loud beats of their music.
At first she was startled by the looming shadow outside her window, but after her first fright she leans out to examine the statue more closely, to lay a hand against the ugly not-quite-dog face which twists around to look in through the glass. Its eagle claws and monstrous bat-wings cannot entirely undermine its air of homely, canine protectiveness.
The stone face watches while over the weeks her nun-like solitude is slowly invaded: quiet young men and women study Bibles or class notes with her, linger to chat. Someone gives her chrysanthemums in a blaze of autumn bronze.
This particular young man has a more assured charm, and her responses to him are glowing and fluttered. They return to her room together on an evening when the gargoyle’s head is capped with a comical covering of snow. Their low-voiced conversation gives way to tentative embraces, a drawn-out kiss. When his hand moves, however, in a practiced motion down to her breast, she struggles free of his insistent mouth with a muffled protest. Their argument is brief and bitter; he bangs the door angrily behind him, leaving her in tears.
When his battered body is found in the snow, scored with great raking slashes, the medieval monster on its high perch has bloodied claws. It will never be suspected. But it will wear forever its slow, stone bewilderment as she weeps on her bed in exclusion and loss.