Renaissance Legacy 3.9B

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Renaissance Legacy 3.9B

  1. 1.
  2. 2. There it is again! Alessandra’s heart fluttered when she heard a twig break for the second time. It sounded like it came from behind her, but the courtyard was closed. No one could enter without coming through the doors that she was staring at currently.<br />
  3. 3. Renata and Ghita were still playing their game as if they hadn’t heard anything. I’m just imagining things, she reassured herself.<br />
  4. 4. When the sound came again, Alessandra nearly jumped out of her skin. Whirling around, she poked at the leaves and tried to see through them. No such luck.<br />“Um, Nico?”<br />
  5. 5. “Yeah?” Nico answered while continuing to jump over his rope.<br />“Why don’t you take Renata and Ghita inside for a snack? The biscotti I made this morning should be cool enough to eat now.” If there really was someone sneaking around the property, it would be best if the little ones weren’t out here.<br />
  6. 6. At the mention of fresh treats, all three of Alessandra’s siblings abandoned what games they had been playing and made a mad dash for the kitchen.<br />
  7. 7. “Um, hello? Who’s there?”<br />The leaves began to rustle in response.<br />“Oh, dear Lord!” Alessandra screamed and jumped back when, with a great shudder, the branches pulled apart and a man emerged.<br />
  8. 8. “Oh, did I scare you?” the man stepped out from the plant and shook off any stray leaves clinging to his tunic.<br />“Of course you did! What are you doing here, Lucio? Are you crazy? I nearly alerted my father!”<br />“Madonna Alessandra,” Lucio took her hand and kissed it, “I apologize for the fright I caused you.”<br />
  9. 9. Though she hated to admit it, the sensation of his lips on her hand caused Alesssandra to blush. Lucio was Giac’s dearest friend from University and he visited often, though never before like this.<br />When Lucio let go of her hand, Alessandra opened her flood gate and let the questions pour. “Why are you here alone? Where is Giac; he was supposed to be riding with you! Is he alright? Did something happen?”<br />
  10. 10. “Don’t fret so! Giacomo is alive and well, though still back in Pisa. He was all set to ride out with me as soon as we finished our exams, but a seminar was announced at the last minute that he just had to attend. He stayed behind and will arrive in a few days.”<br />“Oh. Well, at least he is in good health.” Alessandra looked down, unable to hide her disappointment. She hadn’t seen her older brother in nearly a year, though they had exchanged frequent letters. It was too difficult for him to ride back and forth between Pisa and Florence very often so their visits were reduced to once or twice a year; right after Giac finished a round of exams.<br />
  11. 11. “He knew you would be disappointed, so he sent his gift ahead with me.” Lucio produced a small package and held it out eagerly.<br />“He sent a gift? For me? With you?”<br />Lucio laughed and placed the package into her hands, “Don’t worry, I took excellent care of it. Now open it!”<br />
  12. 12. She tore the paper away and gasped when she saw what was inside it. A beautifully bound copy of Sir Thomas Moore’s Utopia sat in her hand. It was covered in red leather and a braided string held it closed. Her jaw dropped in surprise. “How on earth did Giac afford this? He writes often that father’s allowance does not go very far; how could he get his hands on a copy of this, let alone get it bound so magnificently?”<br />Lucio smiled, “Oh, you needn’t worry about that brother of yours. He’s getting along just fine with that newfound talent of his. I swear your brother is the best card player I’ve ever seen; he cleans out my pockets nightly! I’m sure he used some of my soldi to buy that little book for you. See? It’s pocket-sized.”<br />
  13. 13. “It is!” Alessandra fingered the pages before slipping it into her pocket. It fit perfectly! “Now I can carry it around with me and hide it if ever Viola comes by. Giac thinks of everything!”<br />“That he does. Speaking of your odious stepmother, is she in?”<br />“No, she’s out visiting friends, like she does most afternoons. I was watching over the three little ones when you nearly gave me a heart attack!”<br />Lucio laughed again, “And your father? Is he in?”<br />
  14. 14. “Yes, he’s-“Alessandra’s answer was cut off by several loud shouts and a crash coming through an open window on the top floor. Lucio looked up in confusion and Alessandra grimaced. “He’s been dealing with one of the boys he tutors. One of the more errant boys has been called in for a conference with his guardian because he has not been performing very well. As you can hear, it hasn’t been going very well.”<br />
  15. 15. “I certainly feel sorry for the poor sap,” Lucio said as new shouts erupted from the window. A string of expletives followed and were punctuated by the sound of a door slamming. “I think that’s my cue, though.”<br />“Are you leaving?”<br />
  16. 16. “I’ve got to! I left my horse in the care of some street urchin ten minutes up the road. I wanted to give you your present before I arrived formally; if I waited until after I’d seen your father who knows when I would have had a moment alone with you. Now I’ve got to find my horse before it disappears, if you know what I mean.”<br />“Alright. You’re coming right back, though?”<br />
  17. 17. “Where else would I stay tonight?” With a last smile, Lucio parted the leaves of the bushes and forced one foot in.<br />“See you in twenty minutes!”<br />
  18. 18. Alessandra lingered for only a moment to listen to his footsteps scurrying away from the courtyard before dashing up to her room to hide Utopia deep in her cassone. Her marriage chest was a recent addition to her room and was currently hosting her modest collection of books beneath its layers of linens and silver with the extra security of a lock. Having learned from her past mistake of leaving things where others could get to them, she kept the only key around her neck.<br />
  19. 19. She was on her way back to the courtyard to see if the three little kids had returned from their afternoon snack yet when she was distracted by the sound of sniveling coming from the dining room.<br />
  20. 20. Rounding the corner, she was surprised to see her father’s pupil- she knew his appearance for she had been the one to welcome him this morning- hunched in the corner. “Are you crying?”<br />
  21. 21. He whirled around with a startled look on his face. “No! I wasn’t crying. I-I…Just never mind what I was doing! It’s none of your business!”<br />
  22. 22. “I happen to think it is my business, seeing as you are in my house!” Alessandra crossed the room to challenge him.<br />He made a face at her and spoke in stumbling, broken Italian, “Well, you’re just a girl. What do you know anyways?”<br />“I happen to know a lot, signor. Probably more than you, judging by what I heard coming from my father’s office this morning!”<br />
  23. 23. He crossed his arms in defense but at least had the decency to blush slightly. “I doubt that. I know fencing and jousting and arithmetic and Latin and the list goes on and on, I just don’t want to bore you.”<br />“I’d like to see you try.” Alessandra rolled her eyes at the boy’s idea of an impressive education. “I know Latin and Greek and French and English and arithmetic and rhetoric and grammar and history plus the womanly arts.” As her list went on and on, the boy’s jaw dropped.<br />
  24. 24. “You’ve been taught all that? How so? Girls aren’t supposed to be taught such things.”<br />“Well, I am not your typical girl. My brother took the responsibility of my education upon himself and when he left for University, I’ve continued it myself.”<br />“Wow.” He paused to process the information. “So you’re signor Moretti’s daughter then? Signorina Alessandra?”<br />
  25. 25. “Sì…”<br />“And you’ve already learned everything I’m supposed to…”<br />“Sì…”<br />The boy broke into a smile and quickly changed it into a pleading expression, “So you can teach me?”<br />
  26. 26. Alessandra blinked in surprise, “Are you crazy? That would never work! I have no idea how we would ever be able to meet! What’s more: I don’t even know your name!”<br />“I’m Riccardo, nice to meet you, tutor!”<br />“Hold up! I said no.”<br />
  27. 27. “Please just listen?” He looked at her so beseechingly that Alessandra couldn’t say no. Riccardo thanked her profusely and began, “I’m not even from here. I grew up in England, believe it or not, on my father’s farm until he and my mother died. I was sent here to live with my uncle and he insisted I be educated. I’m not stupid like he and your father think; I just don’t understand half the things they say!”<br />So that was why he stuttered when he spoke! It was clear that the boy was still having a hard time speaking in Italian, so she switched to English to make things easier. “So why don’t you ask your uncle to get you an English tutor?”<br />
  28. 28. Riccardo smiled with relief, “You have no idea how good it is to speak my native tongue again! I’ve asked, nay, begged my uncle to give me a tutor that will speak English, but he absolutely refuses; something about wanting to turn me into a proper Italian. And your father doesn’t help either! He’ll only use Italian when he isn’t using Latin, which, by the way, I’m terrible at also. I was never planning on becoming a scholar; I always wanted to run my father’s farm.”<br />“Well…”<br />
  29. 29. “Per favore, signorina! I will even pay you!”<br />That caught her attention, “How much?”<br />“Two soldiper lesson?”<br />
  30. 30. “Make it five and I’ll say yes!”<br />“Three?”<br />“Deal!”<br />
  31. 31. Alessandra stuck out her hand to shake. He gripped her wrist eagerly and pumped it up and down with a silly smile on his face. “I’ll be back in a couple of days so we can discuss when we will meet.”<br />“That’s fine!” An income! Alessandra’s head buzzed with excitement. She had her own income, no matter how small it was.<br />_ _<br />
  32. 32. “Better watch out; I think I heard la Signora on the stairs…” Lucio said in a mock warning tone as he ambled past the desk Alessandra was sitting at.<br />
  33. 33. “Ha ha. Funny, Lucio,” Alessandra answered dryly without looking up. In the past week that he had been staying with the family, Lucio had learned of Alessandra’s hidden schoolwork and took great joy in scaring her every chance he got. If he found her studying, Lucio would suddenly hear the delicate footsteps of Viola coming down the hall towards them. The first few time he did it she had nearly leapt out of her skin, but by now it hardly fazed her at all.<br />
  34. 34. In all seriousness, though, where is your stepmother? I thought she was home.” Lucio stretched out on a bench in front of the window.<br />“She left about an hour ago to visit some friends. Padre is out also. He’s at work and Viola will be back about lunch. Before she left she told me I have to start some bread to go with our supper tonight.<br />“What else are we having? I’m starving.”<br />
  35. 35. “You’re always starving, Lucio.” She still didn’t look at him while she spoke, choosing instead to focus on the Latin exercises she was preparing for Riccardo to work through that evening.<br />“So…what are you working on?”<br />
  36. 36. “Nothing in particular.” She didn’t know why, but Alessandra had decided to not tell anyone about her deal with Riccardo. It wasn’t that she didn’t trust Lucio, he knew most of her secrets already, but her job held such promise for her future. She couldn’t risk messing it up by telling anyone. Not even Giac, if he ever made it back from University.<br />Lucio sighed and shifted in his seat. “I’m bored, Alessandra. Want to play Primero?”<br />“Gambling is a sin,” she answered, deadpan.<br />
  37. 37. “Oh, it’s not a sin if we just play for fun. We don’t even have to make bets; we can just play for fun.”<br />“No.”<br />
  38. 38. Lucio was about to suggest another card game for them to play when a movement caught his eye through the window. “Hey, I think Viola returned early!”<br />“Lucio, just give up. You aren’t going to get me anymore!”<br />“No, I’m serious this time! There’s somebody coming!”<br />
  39. 39. Alessandra paused to listen and, sure enough, there were footsteps in the gravel outside. She snapped her folio closed and stood quickly, sending her chair scraping across the floor. “Viola will kill me if I do the bread late!”<br />
  40. 40. She bolted from the room, yelling loudly behind her, “Those papers are yours if anyone asks!”<br />“Sure thing!” Lucio waited for her to leave the room before leafing quickly through the pagers on the desk to see what Alessandra was being so secretive about. The pages didn’t hold anything terribly interesting, though. No mention of a secret lover or her latest gambling debts, just row after row of Latin. Boring! He certainly got enough of that at school.<br />
  41. 41. Next he moved to the window to see who actually was outside. If it were Viola, maybe he could head her off at the door and buy Alessandra some extra time in the kitchen. He was surprised to see that he had been wrong; it was Giac dismounting his horse, not Viola.<br />
  42. 42. “Hey, Alessandra! Come outside, Viola isn’t here but Giac is!” Lucio shouted in the foyer as he strode towards the front door, not caring how loud he was. The only other person in the house was the one he wanted to hear him.<br />
  43. 43. “Hey, Giac! Good to see you! What took you so long?” Lucio approached his friend and held his arms out in surprise. It had just begun to rain and Giac’s horse was beginning to prance around anxiously.<br />“I left right after the seminar, but got caught just outside of Pisa in a rainstorm. I had to stay two extra days because the roads were so flooded.”<br />
  44. 44. Giac looked around with a contented expression, “But, boy, is it good to be home.”<br />
  45. 45. “GIACOMO!” Alessandra screamed as she ran out into the rain.<br />
  46. 46. She made a beeline for her brother and slammed against him with all her force and wrapped her arms tightly around his wet torso. “It’s been so long since I saw you! I’m so very glad you’re back! Thank God nothing happened to you!”<br />
  47. 47. ‘It’s great to see you too, sorellina. Is the rest of the family here?”<br />“No, just Lucio and I are here. Papa is at work, Viola is out paying calls, and the little children are visiting Margherita. I opted out of that little excursion.”<br />“So I gather nothing has changed between you and Viola?”<br />
  48. 48. Before Alessandra could respond, Lucio interrupted, “Lovely to have you back, Giacomo, but I believe it’s getting a bit too wet for my tastes. How about I take your horse to the stables while you two go in and get caught up?”<br />Giacomo and Alessandra agreed and headed back to the house while Lucio mounted the stallion.<br />_ _<br />
  49. 49. Later that night, the family had gathered for a spontaneous, intimate dinner party in celebration of Giacomo’s return. As soon as Viola got back to the house that afternoon, she scrapped the current dinner plans and dispatched invitations with the fastest couriers. It had taken a lot of hasty preparation, but the whole family had pulled together to have the meal ready on time.<br />
  50. 50. “My dearest friends and family,” Niccolo waited a moment for conversation to die down before continuing. “Thank you for joining us this evening to celebrate the return of my son, Giacomo Piero Moretti. He has been away studying hard at University, but is visiting for the summer. Son,” he raised his glass towards Giac, “welcome back.” All of the guests raised their wine glasses as well and a round of salute echoed through the room.<br />
  51. 51. With a gulp, the guests placed their goblets back on the table and the first course, along with the hum of polite conversation, began. “How I’ve missed your cooking!” Giac whispered into Alessandra’s ear as he took his first bite. Alessandra laughed under her breath at her brother as he leaned far over his soup bowl in an effort to not spill on his clothes. His trunks had apparently been delayed and his clothes hadn’t arrived from University yet. As a result, he was dressed in a tunic borrowed from Lucio.<br />
  52. 52. Down the table a few feet, Lucio had been seated next to Margherita and was having his first experience with the fearsome woman. “Signora Buondelmonti, your daughter has prepared a lovely banquet for us this evening, don’t you agree?”<br />“Don’t be rude, boy,” Margherita said snappishly. “You do me great insult by insinuating that my daughter cannot afford to keep a cook.”<br />
  53. 53. Well, she cannot. Lucio answered in his head. The plain fact was that the Moretti family was putting every coin towards Giac’s education, but apparently they were putting up a great front.<br />In a voice loud enough to carry to the other end of the table, Margherita said “Yes, the staff has outdone itself this evening. The soup is simply delightful.”<br />
  54. 54. Lucio rolled his eyes and turned away from Margherita, preferring to continue his conversation with anyone else.<br />
  55. 55. “Ghita has really grown up since last summer.” After politely acknowledging all of the guests, Giac turned his attention to conversing with his sister. They hadn’t had much time to gossip that afternoon before dinner preparations began but now was as good a time as any.<br />
  56. 56. In truth, Margherita, Ghita for short, had grown considerably in the last year. She was becoming a little lady that thankfully did not take after her namesake. She had noticed the efforts of Margherita and Viola to mold the youngest of the three little kids in their own images and Alessandra had countered them as best as she could. She had volunteered to care for the girl often and luckily her influence had won. Ghita was kind and witty and showed much promise for her future.<br />
  57. 57. Niccolo Jr, called Nico, was quite the opposite of his younger sister. He was quiet and reserved and showed great interest in the church for such a young age. A pious young soul, the whole family hoped he would become a priest or perhaps even someday the Pope, God willing.<br />
  58. 58. As the oldest of the three, Renata had a personality much like Alessandra liked to imagine her mother’s had been. Though she was on the louder side and often spoke out of turn, Renata had a softer side that, when exposed, endeared everyone to her.<br />
  59. 59. “And this man to my right?” Giac lowered his voice even more so that Alessandra had to lean close to even hear his question. “Is it Carlo?”<br />
  60. 60. Alessandra looked sideways at the man seated at the end of the table, opposite of her father and nodded yes. Carlo Giordano was currently conversing with Viola which involved violent head shakes that wiggled his curls and funny expressions used to punctuate sentences. The man seemed nice enough, but he was dreadfully dull and certainly not what Alessandra looked for in a husband. If only her father didn’t have other ideas.<br />
  61. 61. Giac snickered and mouthed ooh la la which earned a glare from Alessandra. Though nothing concrete had been agreed on, it was looking more and more each day as if Alessandra would be betrothed to Carlo. He was a landowner from just outside of Florence and had come into town to wait while his house was being renovated. Viola had been the first one to suggest the match, only in jest at the time, but Niccolo hadn’t let the idea go.<br />
  62. 62. Seeing the appraising look he was receiving form Giacomo, Carlo turned his attention away from Viola and made a polite inquiry about Giac’s time at University.<br />Of course, the question came out jumbled and Giac had to cringe at the man’s awkward social skills. This man must be filthy rich he thought otherwise father would never let him anywhere near Alessandra.<br />
  63. 63. Dinner continued uneventfully and soon thereafter the guests had scattered to their respective rooms of the house. The three little children had been sent to bed, Viola and Margherita went upstairs to scheme, Niccolo invited Carlo up to his study, and Giac, Alessandra, and Lucio had gone to sit by the fireplace.<br />
  64. 64. “Great dinner, Alessandra.” Lucio complimented the true cook of the meal once he felt it was safe to do so.<br />Alessandra blushed and thanked him, grateful for her work to be appreciated.<br />
  65. 65. “That Margherita is some woman.” Lucio groaned. “I swear, when she wasn’t badmouthing one of you, she was busy badmouthing me!”<br />
  66. 66. Giac and Alessandra laughed in unison. “Try living with her!”<br />
  67. 67. “Though you may not be living around here much longer, Alessandra. Isn’t that right?” Giac nudged her in the shoulder. “I saw the way Carlo was looking at you through dinner.”<br />“Oh, give it a rest.” Alessandra shot back with mild anger.<br />“No!” Lucio said dramatically, leaning forward. “You mean, you and Carlo?!”<br />
  68. 68. “Unfortunately is seems so. Padre practically has his heart set on our match.”<br />“Why don’t you just refuse or something?” Lucio asked from his spot on the other bench.<br />
  69. 69. Giac and Alessandra laughed together again. “I’m afraid it doesn’t work that way, il mio amico. What our father wants, our father gets. Once he has made up his mind, there’s no changing it.”<br />“Not even if-“ Lucio’s sentence was cut off by Niccolo coming into the room with Carlo tagging at his heels.<br />
  70. 70. “Children, I have news!”<br />Everyone rose to welcome the men into the room, but stopped mid-step when Niccolo called only Alessandra forward. “My darling daughter,” he said as he kissed her cheek. “Signore Giordano has something he wishes to tell you.”<br />
  71. 71. Giac grimaced and wrung his hands. Glancing at Carlo, his suspicions were confirmed and he was anything but pleased.<br />
  72. 72. In an over-the-top gesture, Carlo bent down on one knee and gazed up at Alessandra. “Bella Alessandra, your father has, this very evening, kindly consented to our betrothal. As a token of my admiration for you, I have brought a gift that is outshone only by your beauty.”<br />
  73. 73. Giac rolled his eyes at the flowery language but couldn’t help but watch. Niccolo caught his son’s gaze and whispered, “One down, four to go. Your next!” as he passed.<br />
  74. 74. Carlo presented his betrothed with an exquisitely set diamond ring and slipped it on her finger, saying “Wear it and think of me always.”<br />Alessandra thought she would be sick, but managed to keep a genial expression on her face. The ring felt heavy and foreign on her finger but she could do nothing but feign gratitude for the gift. “Of course, my lord.”<br />
  75. 75. By now, Giac had had enough and, motioning to Lucio, headed for the exit with is friend. As they left in search of something stronger than the wine they had with dinner, they pulled faces as Carlo behind his back and felt sorry for Alessandra.<br />
  76. 76. “Welcome to the family, my son!” Niccolo congratulated Carlo as soon as the ring was on his daughter’s finger. “And to you, my daughter, I hope you will find happiness with such a great man.”<br />Alessandra felt dizzy, but nodded and said “Thank you padre” before hurrying from the room as quickly as she could manage.<br />
  77. 77. Dragging herself up the stairs, she made it back to her bedroom before the tears began to leak out. This was not what she had imagined for her life: married to Carlo without the slightest chance of greatness. Though it was rare, a few girls had made names for themselves in the realm of scholarship and she had held the secret hope that she, too, might be admired for her intelligence some day. Now that dream had been crushed with the band that sat securely on her finger.<br />
  78. 78. With a sob, she opened her door and nearly screamed. Her tears seemed to evaporate as soon as she realized that she had company waiting for her in her bedroom. Why did Riccardo have to come tonight?<br />
  79. 79. “Thank God, Alessandra! I’ve been here for hours! I was beginning to think you’d forgotten about me.” Riccardo held his books clasped to his chest as if he was ready to leave at a moment’s notice, just as they had agreed upon. Alessandra would leave her window unlocked every Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday during dinner so Riccardo could climb into her room. He would wait there for her until she was able to excuse herself and come upstairs to begin her tutoring lesson.<br />
  80. 80. “Sorry. I was a bit, um, distracted.”<br />“Is everything alright?” Riccardo could see that Alessandra had been crying and wanted to know why. “Do you want to talk about it?”<br />
  81. 81. “No!” Alessandra wiped away the tears from her cheeks and crossed the room in a couple angry strides. “Let’s just get to work.”<br />Riccardo mumbled “okay” and sat down with his books spread around him. “I finished the exercises you gave me last time. They were actually easy!”<br />
  82. 82. “Good, good.” Alessandra rifled through her wardrobe in search of her nightgown as she shifted her mind from thoughts of marriage to thoughts of Latin. “Do not turn around.”<br />
  83. 83. Alessandra slipped out of her dinner dress, causing Riccardo to blush at the thought of being so close to a naked woman. He hunched over his page of translations and tried to concentrate. “So, what are we working on today?”<br />
  84. 84. “More Latin.” Alessandra quickly unlocked her cassone and grabbed out the exercises she had prepared earlier in the day. “Open to a new page, please, and translate the following: Perfer et obdura; dolor hic tibi proderit olim.<br />
  85. 85. As she read the familiar language, Alessandra began to calm down. There was something comforting about Latin that she couldn’t explain, but welcomed nonetheless.<br />Be patient and tough; someday this pain will be useful to you.<br />
  86. 86. The next morning came quickly, too quickly for the exhausted pair to realize. Alessandra had fallen asleep somewhere around dawn and Riccardo had carefully tucked her into bed before settling in to do a bit more work. Soon enough he, too, had closed his eyes and tipped over, snoring softly on the ground.<br />
  87. 87. Elsewhere, the rest of the household was just getting up. Giac, with a small headache from last night’s festivities with Lucio, had dressed slowly and was on his way to breakfast when an idea struck him.<br />
  88. 88. He hadn’t had a chance to talk to Alessandra since her engagement and he could hear snoring coming from the other side of her chamber door. She must be still asleep, he thought as he approached it. No matter, it is time she was up anyway. He knocked twice and waited for an answer.<br />
  89. 89. “Ay, Madonna!” At the sound of the knock, Alessandra sat straight up in bed and gasped. Riccardo was there, sleeping on her floor, and someone wanted to come in!<br />
  90. 90. “Alessandra, is everything alright?” Giac asked concernedly as he knocked again.<br />
  91. 91. “Fine, fine!” she answered in as calm a voice she could manage as she motioned silently for Riccardo to leave. He rose groggily and took a few minutes to realize what was going on, much to the frustration of Alessandra.<br />
  92. 92. Giac could swear he heard multiple sets of footsteps in there. There was lots of shuffling and was that two voices he heard? “What’s going on?”<br />
  93. 93. She rolled out of bed and gathered the books Riccardo had left scattered around the room while he opened the window. “Nothing, Giac. Hold on; I’m not decent!”<br />
  94. 94. Yes, there were definitely two voices. One was Alessandra’s, speaking in hushed tones, and the other was a male’s. Pulling his dagger, Giac shoved the handle down and flung the door open wide. He burst into the room, weapon at the ready and poised to defend his sister’s honor.<br />
  95. 95. But all he saw was Alessandra sitting on her cassone, trying to look innocent.<br />
  96. 96. “Who was in here?” he demanded.<br />
  97. 97. “Who? Just I, I assure you. Nobody else, as you can see.” Alessandra rose and tried to block Giac’s view of the window with her body.<br />
  98. 98. Giac caught her meaning and shoved past her to peer out the glass. Alessandra hovered behind him, trying to distract him with nonsensical chatter.<br />
  99. 99. Giac’s glare narrowed when he saw a slim figure darting across the lawn.<br />
  100. 100. “You lied to me!” Giac whirled around and shouted at Alessandra. Startled, she stumbled back a few steps. “He was in here, wasn’t he?”<br />Alessandra nodded sheepishly.<br />“I’ll kill him!”<br />
  101. 101. Giac started angrily towards the exit, but Alessandra grabbed the shoulder of his tunic to hold him back. “Please don’t!”<br />“Let go of me! He compromised your virtue! It is my right to run my sword through that worm!”<br />“Stop, Giac! Nothing happened. Just let me explain!” Giac tried to pull away, but Alessandra held on tightly. “He’s paying me.”<br />“Troia!”<br />
  102. 102. “No! Eew! Not like that- I’m tutoring him; he’s paying me to teach him Latin. Please just leave him alone. He’s nice, honestly.”<br />“Oh.” Giac lowered his knife but didn’t put it away. He trusted Alessandra but that boy was another matter altogether. “I never want to find him up here again! Got it?”<br />“Yes.” Alessandra agreed and let her brother go so he could storm from the room. Watching him leave, Alesssandra vowed that Riccardo would just have to be sure to leave earlier next time.<br />_ _<br />
  103. 103. “And so then Giac lays down his cards and the whole table just stares at him. He had the winning pair! Mario was so mad that he had lost that he threw the table, but Giac got the prize!” Lucio started laughing at the memory of that night. The three had spent the afternoon outside in the courtyard, swapping stories and enjoying one another’s company before Lucio left that night. He had spent a little over a month at the Moretti house and he wanted to go down to see his own family in Siena before the summer was over.<br />“What was your prize, Giac?” Alessandra asked as she laughed also.<br />
  104. 104. “About seventy five soldi,” he answered sheepishly and blushed.<br />“Oh, come on; don’t leave out the good part! Tell her about Kari.” Lucio wiggled his eyebrows in a teasing manner that made Giac blush again.<br />
  105. 105. “Yeah, who is Kari?”<br />“Just a girl I met…”<br />“Just a girl? No way! Kari is his lover!”<br />“What?! You’ve never mentioned her in a letter before!” Alessandra gasped and couldn’t help but feel slightly offended that her brother would keep something so important from her.<br />
  106. 106. “She’s not my lover so much as she is a courtesan who happens to enjoy my company.”<br />
  107. 107. Lucio burst into a round of laughter, “Yeah right! That night we played Primero, the second part of his prize was his first kiss from Kari. Since then, she won’t leave his side. She may by a courtesan, but she seems to have set her eyes for only Giac.”<br />
  108. 108. “Oh please.” Alessandra rolled her eyes. Men and their talk of bravado. “Can’t we change the subject? Tell me something about your lectures.”<br />
  109. 109. Lucio’s eyes lit up at the memory of another funny story, “Well there was this one time Giac went to a lecture and came back later that night without his tunic…you’ll have to ask him, though, because the details are still a bit fuzzy to me.”<br />Oh dear. Alessandra gave up trying for a serious story and turned her gaze towards Giac. Leaning back, she waited for him to start. University certainly fosters some funny tales.<br />
  110. 110. After seeing Lucio off and eating a quiet meal with the family, Alessandra excused herself early and came upstairs to meet Riccardo. Since Giac had caught them, they had taken extra precautions to not repeat the experience. He was in her room as she expected, though this time he was oddly empty-handed.<br />
  111. 111. Where are your books, Riccardo?”<br />“Well, I can’t stay long tonight, but I came to ask you something…” he ran his hands nervously through his hair as he spoke and wasn’t able to look her in the eye.<br />“What’s going on?”<br />“I’ve had it with my uncle! I cannot stand to live with him anymore!”<br />
  112. 112. “But you’ve improved so much in your lessons!” And I won’t be paid anymore.<br />“I don’t care!” Riccardo had found his confidence. “He treats me like dirt no matter what I say and I’ve decided that I’m leaving. Two days from now, I’m taking a boat back to England. I’ll buy back my father’s farm and I’m never going to read another Latin phrase in my life!”<br />“Oh. Thank you for telling me. I guess.”<br />
  113. 113. There’s more, though! Alessandra: I want you to come with me.”<br />Alessandra’s jaw fell open.<br />“I’ve heard about your engagement, Alessandra, and I know you want to get out of it! You have no desire to be the wife of dull Carlo and I want a wife to help run my farm. I know it’s not glamorous, but I will save every penny I can to buy you books.”<br />
  114. 114. “I-I don’t know! I mean, it’s so sudden!”<br />“You don’t have to decide right now, then. I’ll wait for you at the end of the road on Friday at eleven. My boat leaves at midnight and I pray you’ll be with me.”<br />
  115. 115. Riccardo took her hand and kissed it and sent shivers up Alessandra’s spine. She was certainly not attracted to him in any way, but he was offering her a life of continuing education and adventure in a new country. “I-“<br />“Just meet me on Friday.”<br />
  116. 116. Suddenly, Riccardo leaned forward and planted his lips on Alessandra’s. The kiss lasted a few seconds before Alessandra pulled back and looked at him in shock.<br />
  117. 117. He grinned with pride before opening the window and climbing out nimbly. Alessandra collapsed on her bed while her thoughts ran a mile a minute.<br />
  118. 118. Should I go?<br />_ _<br />
  119. 119. “Hey Giac!” Alessandra called out to her brother as he was walking towards the door.<br />
  120. 120. “Yeah?”<br />“I need to talk to you.” For the past two days, Alessandra had been torn between accepting Riccardo’s proposal and honoring her betrothal to Carlo and time was running out. She was supposed to meet him tonight and hadn’t been able to make a decision yet.<br />
  121. 121. “Uh, let’s step outside.” From the look on Alessandra’s face, the matter looked serious and Viola was currently sitting ten feet away in the living room. He could see her tucking her hair behind her ear all the better to hear them with.<br />
  122. 122. Alessandra caught his meaning and followed him out into the courtyard. “It’s about my betrothal.”<br />“What about it?”<br />“Well, you know that neither of us can stand him much and I’ve recently received a way of escape.” She spoke hesitantly, afraid of his reaction.<br />
  123. 123. What do you mean?”<br />“Well, I don’t want to get into too much detail, but I’ve received a second proposal.”<br />“From who?!”<br />“Please, I’d rather not say. I don’t want him to get hurt…”<br />
  124. 124. “You cannot be contemplating accepting his offer, though! Carlo is a good match. He may not be exciting, but he is stable. He is offering you a good life as his wife: stable and wealthy.”<br />
  125. 125. “I know that, but the other boy offers me the adventure of a lifetime! I have no desire to be married off so young; I have hardly begun living yet! You don’t know what it’s like, Giac. Stuck here day after day, caring for our younger siblings and hardly being allowed to breathe while you’re off gallivanting about Pisa! You have parties and friends and excitement and get to have a legitimate education on top of it all! The boy may not have the fortune Carlo does, but he is a hard worker and I have faith in him. He will provide for me.”<br />
  126. 126. Giac shifted on his feet while trying to think things through logically. “We all are expected to do things we don’t like, Alessandra. It’s for the good of la famiglia. I’m going to be the next one to marry; father’s already entered negotiations with a couple of families, trying to find the best match possible. Will I love her? No. Will I wish every day I could run off with Kari? Of course! But will I marry the proper woman nonetheless? For sure.”<br />
  127. 127. I know, Giac.” Alessandra hadn’t thought about that. Am I just being selfish?<br />“But…” Giac couldn’t stand to see his sister looking so forlorn. “Will it make you happy?”<br />“I think so. I really do.” She looked at him pleadingly.<br />
  128. 128. “Then I’ll help you,” he admitted with a sigh. He prayed he was making the right decision.<br />“What?!”<br />“I’ll help you! Just tell me what to do and I’ll do it. One condition, though.”<br />“Of course!”<br />“Only give me the necessary details. I don’t want father to know I had anything to do with this.”<br />
  129. 129. “Alright!” Alessandra flung her arms around her brother’s neck and held on tightly. “Thank you, Giacomo. You have no idea how much I love you for this.”<br />
  130. 130. “I love you, too.” Giac answered softly as he looked at his little sister for what was one of the last times.<br />
  131. 131. “You know, I’m a getting a little tired. I think I’ll head up to bed.” Alessandra had been sitting by the fireplace with her family for a couple of hours now, listening to Viola prattle on about wedding details. So far she had decided that they were going to serve a dinner of seven courses and that Alessandra’s dress simply had to be adorned with Venetian lace.<br />
  132. 132. “Are you alright, dear? You’re looking a bit pale.” Niccolo looked concernedly at his daughter. She had been so quiet all evening; he hoped nothing was wrong.<br />“I’m fine, father. Just tired.” She rose and kissed Giac and Niccolo goodnight. “I’ll see you later.”<br />
  133. 133. The whole time Alessandra was leaving the room, Viola just stared at Giac, trying to read his expression. She was sure something fishy was going on and that the two of them were in cahoots.<br />“You know, I think I’ll go off to bed also.” She rose and kissed Niccolo while watching Giac out of the corner of her eye.<br />
  134. 134. “You know, Viola, it’s not too late. Why don’t you stay down a bit longer?” Giac was beginning to panic. His job was to keep everyone as far away from Alessandra’s room as possible until the bells for eleven o’clock had chimed. By then, she would be gone.<br />
  135. 135. “I don’t feel like it. I want to go upstairs.” Viola pushed past him with the hint of a smile playing at her mouth. Seems like her suspicions were right…<br />
  136. 136. “Well, let me walk you, then!” He tried to block her path.<br />“No thank you.” Viola’s eyes narrowed and her voice was cold.<br />
  137. 137. Upstairs, Alessandra had just finished stuffing all of her belongings into a sack and putting on her warmest coat. She still had about five more minutes before she had to leave, so she sat down on the edge of her bed to go over the plan again.<br />
  138. 138. When the eleven o’clock bells ring, leave the room. Open the window and toss the bag down. Climb out onto the sill and into the tree. Close the window before dropping onto the ground. Take the sack and run to the edge of the road where Riccardo will be waiting for me. It wasn’t overly complicated, but something seemed to be holding her back.<br />
  139. 139. Her ring flashed in the light of the single candle that was burning in its holder. Was it thievery to take Carlo’s ring with her? No, she reasoned, it will fetch a high price and we will need all the money we can get.<br />
  140. 140. The first bell chimed and Alessandra jumped from the bed. Goodbye, father, she said in her head, Good riddance Viola. Goodbye Giac. I will miss you the most.<br />
  141. 141. The thought of leaving Giac behind halted her steps. He would be stuck here without an ally in the house when she was gone. Left behind to marry for the betterment of la famiglia and left to defend the household against Viola.<br />
  142. 142. Was it right?<br />
  143. 143. There was no other choice. As the last bell rang, Alessandra reached for the sack with one hand and the window for the other.<br />
  144. 144. “I said move!” Viola tried to go around her stepson, but he matched her move and refused to let her pass. He spouted gibberish in an attempt to keep her from going upstairs. “Niccolo, control your son!”<br />
  145. 145. “Giacomo, quit being disrespectful. Let her past!” Niccolo rose from his spot in front of the fireplace and came over to see what the commotion was about.<br />Giac frantically searched for an excuse, but couldn’t.<br />“What is wrong with you, boy?” Niccolo demanded.<br />
  146. 146. Viola interjected before Giac could answer, “I’ll tell you what’s wrong! He’s working with that sister of his and he doesn’t want us to know about it. She’s upstairs doing something wicked and he is trying to cover for her!”<br />“Not true!” Giac shouted but Niccolo looked apprehensive.<br />“Well let’s just go see, shall we?” he said and motioned for his wife to follow. Giac looked nervously at them before joining the group.<br />
  147. 147. “Come on, dad, this is crazy! Alessandra’s not doing anything wrong; she’s just in bed!” Giac tried desperately to get his father to abandon his quest without luck. As the last bell of the eleventh hour rang, his only hope was that Alessandra had already left.<br />
  148. 148. Niccolo banged on Alessandra’s door, Viola smirked, and Giac fidgeted nervously.<br />When no answer came from Alessandra’s door, Niccolo shoved it open and looked around desperately until he found the proof he was searching for. “Viola, get in here!”<br />

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