Alessandra pushed back her blankets and looked up in confusion as she saw her Father bursting through her bedroom door. “V...
Father?” she asked in confusion. Viola stomped in through the door, her face red and scowling.<br />“What are you doing he...
Viola sputtered to find a response. Finally she settled on, “I just know something is going on and I will find out! Mark m...
He herded Viola towards the door and once they were in the hall, Alessandra and Giac could hear him shouting at his wife f...
Giac’s smile soon disappeared, though. He lingered in her room and, once they heard footsteps going back downstairs, he un...
“I was about to, you know. But then I couldn’t stand the idea of never seeing you, the younger ones, and father ever again...
“Nah.” Alessandra hugged him tighter. “I think I’ll stay right here.”<br />- -<br />
One, two, three, turn. One, two, three, turn. Alessandra paced nervously around her room as she waited to hear the knock o...
She didn’t know how long she paced, but by the time the knock sounded, Alessandra’s legs were beginning to get tired. So m...
The door opened to reveal her zia Caterina, dressed in dark colors and carrying, of all things, a book. She put a marker b...
Turning her attention to Alessandra, she smiled. “Oh, look at how much you’ve grown! You look so much like your dear mamma...
At the mention of her mother, Alessandra’s gaze hardened. It’s supposed to be my mother helping me today, not my aunt. Cat...
Alessandra pulled away awkwardly. Somehow the comparison didn’t brighten her mood. “I’ve got my dress hanging in here.” Sh...
“Are the flowers ok? Should I take them out of my hair?” Alessandra peered into her small mirror, trying to find her answe...
“That’s nice of him.” Caterina moved towards the bed and bent to pick up the book she had placed there earlier.<br />“How ...
“What, aunt?” Alessandra put the mirror down.<br />“I have a present for you, as well.” Caterina tossed the book back on t...
Alessandra took the note tentatively and read the front. It was addressed to “Bambina” – baby.<br />“I’ll let you read it ...
My baby,<br />I don’t know your name. I don’t know your qualities. All that I know is that I love with all my soul. You we...
The body of the note was written clearly in her aunt’s hand, but the signature was distinctly different. The letters swam ...
Coupled with the letter was a short guidebook entitled “Per la Donna Sposata: una Guida per il Concepimento e il Parto” – ...
She smiled at the gift and slipped it, along with the letter, into the pocket underneath her skirt. Her cassone was alread...
Taking courage from her mother’s words, Alessandra put on a brave face and exited the room. “I’m ready to go down.”<br />
Caterina beamed proudly at her niece, took her arm, and walked with her.<br />
The ceremony passed in a blur. Alessandra stood with Carlo in front of family and friends and was made his wife. Her fathe...
Food was the last thing on Alessandra’s mind as they moved into the banquet. Her new wedding band was only another piece o...
She sat stiffly through the grand meal, eating bits and pieces of each course yet not truly tasting anything. Conversation...
The younger ones were allowed to attend the feast, much to their delight. Nico and Ghita shoved their faces with cakes and...
When the sun set, some of the guests moved out into the center of the courtyard for dancing and Alessandra was finally abl...
Soon the clocks struck midnight and Niccolo gathered the guests for a toast. Wine glasses were refilled and they all clust...
“Esteemed guests; family and friends; I thank you heartily for gathering together this day to celebrate the marriage of my...
More applause.<br />“Now we must bid them farewell. Unfortunately, Carlo has told me that he must get back to his country ...
“To La Signora Giordano!” the sentiment echoed through the courtyard as they all tipped up their glasses.<br />
Alessandra emptied hers in one gulp.<br />
As the guests slowly dispersed, drunken shouts sounding all the way down the streets, Alessandra took the opportunity to s...
Next to Giac, who hugged her tightly and didn’t want to let her go. He whispered in her hear that if she ever needed anyth...
The rest of the guests lined up for a quick goodbye, all giving Alessandra bits of advice as she moved around the courtyar...
Even Lucio called her over for a hug.<br />
Finally, she came to Viola. They squared off, both refusing to give in and speak first.<br />
Luckily, neither of them had to. Renata came up timidly and tapped Alessandra on the shoulder to get her attention.<br />“...
With a smile, she offered it to Alessandra. “It’s from Nico, Ghita, and me.”<br />“For me?”<br />“Yes; we wanted to give y...
Alessandra took the box and tore off the decorative paper, revealing a notebook smartly bound in leather and embossed with...
“Thank you! This is the sweetest gift I’ve ever received!”<br />They embraced until Carlo called from across the courtyard...
“I’ll come back to see you all as soon as I can.” Alessandra grabbed the notebook and tucked it under her arm before walki...
“Are you ready yet?”<br />“I suppose.”<br />A great cheer erupted behind them as they left along with ribald hollers direc...
The journey was long and bumpy and Alessandra’s head banged against the wall as she attempted to sleep. Eventually she gav...
Carlo had slept most of the way there, used to journeying back and forth between the city and his country estate, while Al...
Finally they arrived at her new house after a long, overnight journey and Alesssandra had to get out and face her new life...
The long trip had bought her one night, but as soon as it grew dark again she knew that Carlo would come for her and the t...
Alessandra ignored him for the most part, not caring that the stone used to build the house had come from a quarry a mile ...
He gave her a short tour of the downstairs, making it all the way to the soggiorno before noticing her lack of attention. ...
“Well, I suppose I can end the tour now.” Carlo looked not the least inconvenienced. “I have some business to attend to an...
“Your room is straight up these stairs, the first door on the left. There are a couple of guest rooms down the hall past y...
“Your maid hasn’t arrived yet, I’m afraid. Until she does, you may have use of one of the kitchen girls. She’ll be around....
“Then I suppose I’ll see you tonight.” Carlo leaned in and kissed her on the forehead, making Alessandra cringe. Already s...
Alessandra trudged up the stairs, glad to be rid of her husband.<br />
After sleeping most of the day away, Alessandra was woken up with a tray of supper and an eager-looking kitchen maid hover...
When she stepped out of the tub, the water that coated her body made her shiver. She toweled herself off quickly and pulle...
So far Carlo hadn’t raised any objections to her appearance. Alessandra supposed she could be considered pretty. She had t...
Before she had had a taste of the world, she had been sent out to the countryside to waste away as a young bride. She woul...
Alessandra left the mirror and walked up to her bed. Propping her neck up with a pillow, she smiled at her secret pamphlet...
For a while at least, Alessandra could rest easily without worrying about having to care for children before she was good ...
The kitchen maid had been long since dismissed by the time Carlo came into her bedchamber. Alessandra herself was nearly a...
He cleared his throat and climbed the stairs. A sense of panic rose in her chest and Alessandra’s heart began to beat rapi...
Her heart clenched when he took her by the waist and pulled her over.<br />As he pressed his body next to hers, Alessandra...
She conjugated Latin verbs in an attempt to tear her attention from the strange sensation of Carlo touching her where no o...
Streams of sunlight forced their way through the space between the curtains and rested on Alessandra’s face. She stirred g...
She got out of bed and walked to the other side slowly, pulling the blankets up neatly before looking at the piece of jewe...
It was true; she was now Carlo’s wife in every sense of the word. He had taken her last night as his own, making an annulm...
She slipped the ring on her first finger. It fit perfectly.<br />Crumpling the paper in her fist, she tossed it to the flo...
She moved quietly over to her cassone, not wanting to alert any one the household staff that she was up and about. A paint...
Taking courage in her mother’s advice, she flipped through the pages until she found what she was searching for.<br />She ...
“Alright, buddy. Throw ten more coins in the pot if you’re so confident!” Giac nudged Lucio playfully and took another swi...
Giacomo, Lucio, and Paolo, another friend from University, all laid their hands down on the table at the same time. Giac a...
“Forgetting about me, are you?” She laid her cards down delicately and a smug grin appeared on her face. “Looks like I win...
Under the table, her foot found Giac’s and she gently tapped it with her slipper, making him blush. To cover it up, he too...
They were halfway through the round, exchanging insults and brags amongst one another, when their friendly late-night game...
“I have a message to deliver.” The stranger didn’t leave but pulled a piece of paper out of his tunic instead.<br />“Who f...
Giac laid his cards face down and held his hand out for the note. When the stranger didn’t give it over, Giac drew a silve...
Giac opened it up and read quickly as the messenger turned to leave. The message made his heart sink: Come home now. Fathe...
“When did you get this?” Giac lunged forward to grab the messenger and prevent him from leaving.<br />“Uh, yesterday, sign...
“I don’t know, signor. He was youngish; perhaps fourteen or fifteen. He had dark hair, like you, but his eyes were green. ...
“Thank you. That will be all.” Giac crumpled the paper in his hand and headed for the exit. His head suddenly more clear f...
“Wait!” Kari threw her cards down on the table and pushed her chair back.<br />
She chased him down the hall, a good ten feet behind, until she caught up at the bottom of the staircase. “Where are you r...
Noticing her for the first time, Giac turned around with an expression in his eyes that was difficult to read; sorrow mixe...
“It’s from my, um, brother, Nico. He says my father’s ill…” Giac’s voice caught on the last word so he paused for a moment...
“It’s a tempting offer, Kari, but I’ve got too much to do. Besides, I don’t know if it would be wise for my family to meet...
But when she met Giac all the rules had flown from her head and now it seemed she could never go back. She had gone too fa...
“I cannot say. It all depends…on how ill my father is.” Giac felt his composure slipping away from him again and he desper...
Before she could make it more than a few steps, Giac took her hand and kissed it gently. “Thank you.”<br />Kari’s hand tin...
“Oh, yes.” Giac turned and went up the stairs two at a time, newly refocused on the developing situation at home.<br />Kar...
 “So do you think either one of them are coming back?” Lucio fingered through his cards again, rearranging them this time ...
“Well then,” Lucio reached to his right and pulled Giac’s cards in front of him, “what say you we keep the round going? I ...
“Sure thing!” Lucio dexterously maneuvered Giac’s significantly smaller pile of money to join with his, smiling on the ins...
Just before the messenger had arrived, Lucio had spied Giacomo lightly tapping his fingers on the table, a nervous habit m...
“Signora Alessandra,” Rina, Alessandra’s personal maid, hovered in the doorway, “you have a visitor.”<br />
Alessandra laid down her quill and sighed. “Who is it?” If it was one of her husband’s friends, she would have to take tim...
Alessandra smiled and closed the book she had been translating from Latin into Italian, “Yes! Send him up immediately!” Sh...
Alessandra rushed to her mirror and pinched her cheeks in an effort to make them pinker. She wouldn’t need to make up her ...
When she heard footsteps growing near, she dashed from the bath room and positioned herself demurely in front of the door....
“Lucio!” Alessandra impulsively flung herself into his strong arms and hugged him tightly. “So good to see you!” Since her...
“Likewise, signora.” Lucio pulled back slightly and tried not to blush. As Alessandra retreated back to an acceptable dist...
“So…what brings you all the way out here? Just felt like popping in for a visit?” Alessandra forced out a laugh, but let i...
“So you haven’t heard?” Lucio asked hesitantly. He had come expecting Alessandra to have already received a message and he...
“No!” Alessandra’s face crumpled into an expression of worry, tears beginning to fall. “Do you know what happened? Or why ...
“Uh, yeah.” Lucio’s cheeks colored at the lie. The truth was that Giacomo had left before he could say anything to him abo...
The maid, who had seated herself discretely on the chair against the wall, nodded her head in agreement. She had watched t...
“Ah.” Lucio followed closely at her heels as they wound through the extensively decorated halls. “Nice place you’ve got he...
“What’s that supposed to mean?” he asked as he glanced over a balcony. Fields of grape vines stretched out into the distan...
“Nothing. Just…hmmm.” Alessandra kept her answer vague as she reached the door to her husband’s study and knocked. A muffl...
“Can I help you?” Carlo asked in a short tone when he saw his wife coming in, a strange man following her. He leaned back ...
Carlo looked over the two people standing at his desk slowly. “I recognize you, signor.”<br />“I was at your wedding a whi...
“Message…hold on.” Carlo reached down into his desk drawer and sifted around for a few seconds before closing it again, em...
Instead, Carlo gave her an indulgent look and spoke in a lofty tone, “Exactly. As your husband, anything of yours is mine....
Carlo adjusted his attention to look past his wife and speak with Lucio, “I’m afraid I’m wrapped up in business at the mom...
Alessandra nodded her consent and braced herself for the kiss she knew was coming. Carlo leaned in and pushed his lips aga...
She lowered her eyes in submission and hurried from the room, motioning Lucio to come with her.<br />Carlo saw them to the...
But then again…see how he waits for her.<br />Carlo forced himself to leave the doorway, promising himself that he would f...
“As soon as they load the trunks, we can go,” Alessandra explained to Rina and Lucio, who stood off to the side, kindly le...
She walked swiftly past the boxes, her long skirts dragging in the pebbles that covered the ground, and pulled herself up ...
Alessandra rested against the back corner, peeking out between the curtains to check on progress. Instead she saw Carlo pe...
Nice carriage you’ve got here.” Lucio noted as he settled in next to her, fluffing up a pillow under his back.<br />“Thank...
Lucio nudged her foot to get her attention. “How is ol’ Carlo these days? I saw he’s running a vineyard; pretty successful...
“I don’t want to talk about it.”<br />
“Oh.” Lucio looked sheepishly at his feet, at a loss for words. It was a strange feeling, but it passed quickly. “So, who ...
“Huh?” Alessandra finally turned her attention to him.<br />“Who is worse? Carlo or Viola?” He held his breath, praying th...
Alessandra stared at him for a second and then tipped her head back and laughed. It felt nice to laugh; she hadn’t in so l...
“Well if you were able to survive her, you can make it through anything.”<br />Alessandra’s mood darkened as the carriage ...
“Would you like to, well, talk about it?”<br />“No.”<br />“Oh.” His heart twisted at seeing the pain he had caused her. Wh...
“Please talk about something else.” Her words cut through the air, shocking him.<br />
“Well…I did pretty well at cards last night.” He spoke hesitantly, double and triple checking everything before it came ou...
“Gambling is sinful,” she answered with the hint of a smirk playing at the edges of her mouth.<br />
This time it was Lucio who laughed out loud.<br />
Giacomo was slightly unsettled at the stiff silence that had descended over the house since his last visit. The downstairs...
His two stepsisters were huddled together outside his father’s chamber door, a mess of teary eyes and runny noses. Ghita w...
His footsteps startled both girls and they snapped their attention to the dark figure coming towards them.<br />“Oh, Giaco...
Renata took the hint and went no closer. “Inside,” she motioned towards the door behind her. “Mother and Nico are sitting ...
“The physician is checking up on him again.” Ghita added with a sniff. “He says the outlook isn’t good.” Her words brought...
Giac nodded his head sharply and pushed past the teary girls.<br />The heavy scent of sickness and too many people crowded...
The physician was hovering over Niccolo’s stiff form when Giac entered. He replaced the herbs in a small cup next to the b...
“What happened?” Giac asked, motioning towards the bed.<br />The physician took a deep breath before beginning. “Four days...
“Has he regained consciousness at all since that night during dinner?”<br />“Oh, yes. He was quite lucid the morning after...
“Thank you.” He clapped the physician on the shoulder, dismissing him.<br />
The carriage jostled under the resting bodies and the movements that had been annoying an hour ago were now lulling them i...
When the horses came to a halt and the cart stopped rocking, Lucio’s eyes opened.<br />He looked around in confusion, forg...
Her head tipped sharply, waking her as well. With a snort she sat back up and looked at Lucio with embarrassment. “Sorry I...
With an easy smile, Lucio tumbled out of the cart, stretched his stiff limbs, and said “Don’t worry about it. I’ve been to...
The halls echoed their footsteps eerily as Alessandra led Lucio up the stairs. It was so quiet that she heard the rattling...
Renata and Ghita, who were still lingering outside the door, perked up some when they saw the two figures ascending the st...
Glancing around and seeing most of the people jammed around the fireplace, she headed into the inner-most room of the cham...
Instinctively she wedged herself in Giac’s arms and felt his protective nature surround her. With her brother, the world s...
“Not exactly. I got one, but-” A rustling sound made her stop talking and draw back from Giac. She saw her father pushing ...
His arms were shaking with the effort to hold up his weight, so she rushed to his side and took him by the elbow to help h...
Instead he pulled her into a hug. “Oh my darling Renee; I knew I heard your voice!” Alessandra stiffened in his grip and t...
It was if he didn’t even hear her. “Yes, yes, Renee. I knew you would come back to me! You’ve changed your hair, though. I...
Alessandra plastered a smile on her face though inside it was killing her. “I’ll be back.” She hurried from the room, near...
Everyone in the room stared at her, wondering what she had done to cause such apparent distress to the family patriarch. S...
“He doesn’t recognize me. He thinks I’m my mother.” Alessandra’s tears began to fall. With a comforting look, Lucio pulled...
“I always loved her, you know.”<br />“Huh?” When Alessandra left the room, a change came over Niccolo. No longer did he se...
“She was my whole world, my other half, and now I…” his shoulders drooped and his eyes became unfocused as his sentence tr...
Looking back at his father, he was shocked to see him reaching out for nothing. He held his hand out, clamped around an in...
“Signor! Signor!” Giac bolted from the room, calling for the physician.<br />
He snapped to attention, grabbed his tools, and ran back to his patient’s side.<br />“It’s going to be soon.” Giac announc...
As he spoke, the door opened and the two girls entered, followed solemnly by a priest.<br />
Giac stepped forward to greet him. “Thank you for coming, Father.”<br />“I’ve been prepared for days, Signor. I was just w...
Not long after, the Physician emerged with a grave expression and announced to the company that Niccolo had passed on.<br />
Everyone rose immediately and shoved through the doorway. They gathered around the bed, hardly a dry eye, to honor the pas...
Silently, the band dispersed. Alessandra gathered her sisters and walked them to the room that they shared, tucking them g...
She walked with Nico, too, though they parted ways at his door.<br />
Lastly, she saw Lucio off, insisting that he could go back to her townhouse and take a room there for the night. “There’s ...
He leaned in for a hug, turning at the last second and giving her a kiss on the cheek.<br />Alessandra blushed furiously b...
In a silent truce, Alessandra came together with Viola for one night. They worked in grieving harmony while they prepared ...
As the young ones drifted off to sleep, the same disheartening thought echoed through all of their heads.<br />What will b...
Giacomo held all of the cards now. As head of the family, he now had the power to control the futures of his family member...
After writing dozens of letters ordering flowers, food, services, horses, etc., Giac sat back in his chair and sighed. His...
Flipping through the pages, a dusty smell filled his nostrils and he tingled with excitement. He felt like a naughty boy a...
Any time he had been caught, his hand had been smacked and he had endured a lengthy lecture cautioning him to stay out.<br...
…<br />May 12<br />I cancelled my lessons and appointments today. I married Renee Dupont, the niece of Signore Alberti, a ...
…<br />March 29<br />A son! This morning I write joyous news: God has granted me a son!<br />Renee felt the first pains of...
…<br />January 8<br />Early this morning, our daughter was called back to her heavenly father. Thank God she was baptized ...
…<br />November 10<br />Happy news is tempered with sadness. God has given me a healthy daughter this evening, but Renee i...
…<br />November 12<br />Terrible news. My dear wife is dead. Renee died this afternoon after a disappointing visit from th...
Reading through his father’s entries certainly provided some insight into some of his decisions. The entries were curt and...
…<br />June 18I am dying. Two days ago, I felt a deep pain in my chest and I passed out. Now all my strength is gone: I ca...
Turning the page once more, Giacomo stared at the oddly blank piece of parchment that faced him. The rest of the pages had...
June 20Fame to the dead comes too late.<br />Perhaps too late now, I wish to honor my father and all the good he did for o...
_ _<br />
“Thank you for coming over today, Signor DiPaolo.” Giacomo shook the hand of the notary who had come over early Saturday m...
Giovanni DiPaolo nodded sharply and sat down, pulling a rolled piece of parchment from his robes. “Signor Moretti, you und...
“Very well.” Giovanni unrolled the stiff parchment and cleared his voice to read.<br />
I , Niccolo Moretti, bequest my possessions to my oldest son, Giacomo Moretti, upon my death. This includes the Moretti Ho...
As for Viola, it is up to her to decide if she wants to stay or go back to her family. If she decides to go, she will have...
Once he finished, Viola, who had been silent the entire time, spoke up, “Signor, when was this will drafted?”<br />
Giovanni pointed to the date at the top and explained “Back in June, Signora. It’s in Latin, so I understand why you are c...
“I see.” Viola’s face remained stony, though her mind was racing in an attempt to figure out a way to come out on top. Her...
Giovanni rolled the will back up and slipped it into his robes. “If that is all, Signor, I will be on my way.”<br />“Of co...
Late that night as Giacomo was on his way to bed he rounded a corner and nearly ran smack into Viola. Startled by her pres...
But tonight, in a shocking turn of events, Viola stepped aside to let him pass.<br />As he did, she bowed her head humbly ...
A deep sense of satisfaction flooded Giac’s senses. A broad smile spread across his face to finally see his hated stepmoth...
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The Renaissance Legacy 4.1

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The Renaissance Legacy 4.1

  1. 1.
  2. 2. Alessandra pushed back her blankets and looked up in confusion as she saw her Father bursting through her bedroom door. “Viola, get in here!” she heard him command.<br />
  3. 3. Father?” she asked in confusion. Viola stomped in through the door, her face red and scowling.<br />“What are you doing here?” She questioned angrily.<br />“This is my bedroom, Viola. Remember, I said I was tired hardly a half an hour ago and came up early?” Alessandra stared at her stepmother with an incredulous look.<br />
  4. 4. Viola sputtered to find a response. Finally she settled on, “I just know something is going on and I will find out! Mark my words, I’ll find out!”<br />Niccolo looked sheepishly down at his daughter, “Sorry for bursting in like that…Viola was convinced that you were up to no good and insisted that I catch you in the act. However, I see now that she was simply being paranoid.” He shot a significant look at his wife and started to back away. “I’ll let you get some rest now.”<br />
  5. 5. He herded Viola towards the door and once they were in the hall, Alessandra and Giac could hear him shouting at his wife for “acting foolishly and rashly.” It made them smile.<br />
  6. 6. Giac’s smile soon disappeared, though. He lingered in her room and, once they heard footsteps going back downstairs, he unleashed another round of questioning on his sister. “What happened? I thought you were leaving tonight!”<br />“I couldn’t do it.” Alessandra admitted, avoiding his eyes. She glanced instead over to her wardrobe which her bag of belongings had been shoved into before she dove under the covers as her family tromped up the stairs. Thankfully they were a noisy bunch.<br />A wave of relief swept over his face. “I cannot say I’m not glad you stayed.”<br />
  7. 7. “I was about to, you know. But then I couldn’t stand the idea of never seeing you, the younger ones, and father ever again.” The thought of a future where her name was legendary for all the wrong reasons in Florence had made the idea of running off to a foreign country with a boy she hardly knew seem decidedly less romantic. “I couldn’t bring myself to abandon my family because of my own selfish reasons.”<br />Giac pulled her in for a hug. “There’s still time to meet Riccardo if you want. It’s barely past eleven now.”<br />
  8. 8. “Nah.” Alessandra hugged him tighter. “I think I’ll stay right here.”<br />- -<br />
  9. 9. One, two, three, turn. One, two, three, turn. Alessandra paced nervously around her room as she waited to hear the knock on the door. Three steps forward and she was at the wall. Three steps back and she was by her bed.<br />
  10. 10. She didn’t know how long she paced, but by the time the knock sounded, Alessandra’s legs were beginning to get tired. So much to do today…<br />She whirled around and said, “Come in!”<br />
  11. 11. The door opened to reveal her zia Caterina, dressed in dark colors and carrying, of all things, a book. She put a marker between the pages and tossed it on the bed.<br />
  12. 12. Turning her attention to Alessandra, she smiled. “Oh, look at how much you’ve grown! You look so much like your dear mamma!”<br />
  13. 13. At the mention of her mother, Alessandra’s gaze hardened. It’s supposed to be my mother helping me today, not my aunt. Caterina caught the shift in her niece’s mood and pulled her into a hug. “Don’t worry, dear. It’s a compliment. I remember your mother on her wedding day and you, mia cara, rival her in beauty.”<br />
  14. 14. Alessandra pulled away awkwardly. Somehow the comparison didn’t brighten her mood. “I’ve got my dress hanging in here.” She crossed the room in three steps and pulled open the wardrobe doors to reveal a blue gown trimmed with dark fur. It had been delivered two days ago, a present from Carlo that he had ordered especially for their wedding.<br />“Beautiful!” Caterina reached over her shoulder and pulled it out. “Let’s get you dressed!”<br />
  15. 15. “Are the flowers ok? Should I take them out of my hair?” Alessandra peered into her small mirror, trying to find her answer in its reflective surface. Half of the wedding guests were already gathering downstairs and in less than an hour she would be wedded to Carlo. Forever…<br />“You look beautiful, my dear; leave the flowers. The jewels are a nice addition, too.”<br />Alessandra blushed. “They’re also from Carlo. He likes sending me gifts.” In the two months since they had been engaged, he had sent over several small packages addressed to “My Betrothed.” Usually they contained a small trinket, some sweets, a ring, a ribbon. But as their wedding date grew closer, the gifts grew grander; a bracelet, a brooch, a necklace, culminating with the dress.<br />
  16. 16. “That’s nice of him.” Caterina moved towards the bed and bent to pick up the book she had placed there earlier.<br />“How about my teeth? Should I go over them again with the rag?” Alessandra had cleaned them thoroughly after breakfast this morning, but now she was having second thoughts. She wanted to look nice today.<br />“They’re fine.” Caterina answered in an exasperated tone as she flipped through the pages. Finally she stopped towards the end of the book and exclaimed, “There it is!”<br />
  17. 17. “What, aunt?” Alessandra put the mirror down.<br />“I have a present for you, as well.” Caterina tossed the book back on the bed and held up a piece of paper coupled with a small pamphlet. She pushed it towards Alessandra. “I promised your mother that I would give this to you on your wedding day.”<br />
  18. 18. Alessandra took the note tentatively and read the front. It was addressed to “Bambina” – baby.<br />“I’ll let you read it in private.” Caterina swept out of the room, her dark skits rustling behind her. She was still in mourning for her husband who had passed away nearly two years ago.<br />The door shut gently as Alessandra opened the note and began to read.<br />
  19. 19. My baby,<br />I don’t know your name. I don’t know your qualities. All that I know is that I love with all my soul. You were born only two days ago and have already captured the hearts of all that have seen you.<br />So small, so precious, so fragile. I wish I could watch you grow, watch you learn, watch you marry, watch you become a mother. Unfortunately, God has other plans for me.<br />He will call me to heaven soon, I know this is true. I also know that I will watch down with pride.<br />You have greatness in you; listen to heart and do not be afraid to take risks. You will always have your family there to back you up.<br />Perhaps my biggest regret is that I will not be at your side to offer you womanly advice as you grow. Perhaps your father will remarry someone that will take my place, but if he does not, I asked your aunt to give you something along with this note that will hopefully answer all of your questions. Personally, I have found it is better to be informed.<br />Lastly, I would like to offer you my sincerest congratulations. Today is your wedding day and please imagine me standing there by your side as it would have been if God had not called me to other action. I love you, my baby. I love you forever.<br />With love,<br />Mamma<br />
  20. 20. The body of the note was written clearly in her aunt’s hand, but the signature was distinctly different. The letters swam over the page as Alessandra’s eyes grew teary.<br />Her mother had written it! Even on her deathbed, her mother had thought of Alessandra.<br />Every girl dreamed of having their mother dress them for the day of their wedding ceremony, but Alessandra had been forced to do without. Her aunt was kind and helpful, but no substitute for a mother’s love and devotion.<br />But now, reading the letter, Alessandra felt her mother’s presence, if only in spirit. She had been loved, if only for a few days as her mother’s life hung in the balance. And now she was watching from heaven, a graceful angel looking down from above, as her daughter prepared for the most important day of her life.<br />
  21. 21. Coupled with the letter was a short guidebook entitled “Per la Donna Sposata: una Guida per il Concepimento e il Parto” – “For the Married Woman: a Guide to Conception and Childbirth”.<br />
  22. 22. She smiled at the gift and slipped it, along with the letter, into the pocket underneath her skirt. Her cassone was already packed on the cart that was waiting outside and would leave soon. There wasn’t any time to put the pages inside; she would have to do it once she got to her new house.<br />
  23. 23. Taking courage from her mother’s words, Alessandra put on a brave face and exited the room. “I’m ready to go down.”<br />
  24. 24. Caterina beamed proudly at her niece, took her arm, and walked with her.<br />
  25. 25. The ceremony passed in a blur. Alessandra stood with Carlo in front of family and friends and was made his wife. Her father passed her on to another household and a notary was there to witness the exchanging of the dowry.<br />
  26. 26. Food was the last thing on Alessandra’s mind as they moved into the banquet. Her new wedding band was only another piece of adornment added to her person. There was no love, no promise behind it and she certainly felt no loyalty towards her husband.<br />
  27. 27. She sat stiffly through the grand meal, eating bits and pieces of each course yet not truly tasting anything. Conversation flowed mostly over her head as she stared off into the distance, occasionally muttering noncommittal sentences.<br />
  28. 28. The younger ones were allowed to attend the feast, much to their delight. Nico and Ghita shoved their faces with cakes and delicacies while Renata picked at her plate and practiced flirting.<br />
  29. 29. When the sun set, some of the guests moved out into the center of the courtyard for dancing and Alessandra was finally able to unwind a little. Margherita stood in the corner, glaring down upon the amusement like a disapproving gargoyle.<br />But even that didn’t last long enough.<br />
  30. 30. Soon the clocks struck midnight and Niccolo gathered the guests for a toast. Wine glasses were refilled and they all clustered together.<br />
  31. 31. “Esteemed guests; family and friends; I thank you heartily for gathering together this day to celebrate the marriage of my oldest daughter, Alessandra Moretti and the wonderful gentleman, Signor Carlo Giordano.”<br />A polite round of applause interrupted his speech. He waited for it to die down.<br />“As we send them off into their new married lives, I ask us all to pray for God to bless their union with long, happy lives and many children.”<br />
  32. 32. More applause.<br />“Now we must bid them farewell. Unfortunately, Carlo has told me that he must get back to his country estate as soon as possible, so there will be no procession through the streets.”<br />This time there was a collective sigh.<br />“But I know my daughter will make a good and honorable wife to Signor Carlo and I know she will make him happy. To La Signora Giordano!”<br />
  33. 33. “To La Signora Giordano!” the sentiment echoed through the courtyard as they all tipped up their glasses.<br />
  34. 34. Alessandra emptied hers in one gulp.<br />
  35. 35. As the guests slowly dispersed, drunken shouts sounding all the way down the streets, Alessandra took the opportunity to say her last goodbyes.<br />First to her father. He wished her luck in her marriage and warned her to be obedient to her husband.<br />
  36. 36. Next to Giac, who hugged her tightly and didn’t want to let her go. He whispered in her hear that if she ever needed anything he would be there in a heartbeat.<br />
  37. 37. The rest of the guests lined up for a quick goodbye, all giving Alessandra bits of advice as she moved around the courtyard.<br />
  38. 38. Even Lucio called her over for a hug.<br />
  39. 39. Finally, she came to Viola. They squared off, both refusing to give in and speak first.<br />
  40. 40. Luckily, neither of them had to. Renata came up timidly and tapped Alessandra on the shoulder to get her attention.<br />“Yes?”<br />“Come with me.” Renata walked off to the empty half of the courtyard and took a package off the table.<br />
  41. 41. With a smile, she offered it to Alessandra. “It’s from Nico, Ghita, and me.”<br />“For me?”<br />“Yes; we wanted to give you something to remember us by…as a thank you for always looking out for us.”<br />
  42. 42. Alessandra took the box and tore off the decorative paper, revealing a notebook smartly bound in leather and embossed with her name on the cover and an inscription inside.<br />Propter sororem:<br />Eea die nuptiarum;<br /> Ut semper nos meminerimus. *<br />- Nico, Renata et Ghita<br />“Nico translated it into Latin for us. He’s getting pretty good, you know.”<br />* To our sister:<br />On her wedding day;<br />May she always remember us.<br />
  43. 43. “Thank you! This is the sweetest gift I’ve ever received!”<br />They embraced until Carlo called from across the courtyard, “Ready to go?”<br />
  44. 44. “I’ll come back to see you all as soon as I can.” Alessandra grabbed the notebook and tucked it under her arm before walking over to Carlo.<br />
  45. 45. “Are you ready yet?”<br />“I suppose.”<br />A great cheer erupted behind them as they left along with ribald hollers directed towards the new couple. All of it washed over Alesssandra, though. She was anything but happy.<br />
  46. 46. The journey was long and bumpy and Alessandra’s head banged against the wall as she attempted to sleep. Eventually she gave up but not before she had earned herself a headache. As they drove out to Carlo’s house, the atmosphere was uncomfortably quiet or a pair of newlyweds.<br />
  47. 47. Carlo had slept most of the way there, used to journeying back and forth between the city and his country estate, while Alessandra watched him with nervous eyes.<br />
  48. 48. Finally they arrived at her new house after a long, overnight journey and Alesssandra had to get out and face her new life.<br />
  49. 49. The long trip had bought her one night, but as soon as it grew dark again she knew that Carlo would come for her and the thought was terrifying.<br />He led her around the front of the house, pointing out odd facts here and there. “This wall was built by my father and my uncle, just a year before I inherited the place. And see that tree over there? I planted it.”<br />
  50. 50. Alessandra ignored him for the most part, not caring that the stone used to build the house had come from a quarry a mile away. <br />
  51. 51. He gave her a short tour of the downstairs, making it all the way to the soggiorno before noticing her lack of attention. “Are you feeling well?”<br />“I’m tired and I have a headache.” She answered lamely.<br />
  52. 52. “Well, I suppose I can end the tour now.” Carlo looked not the least inconvenienced. “I have some business to attend to anyway – I have to meet with my overseer.”<br />Alessandra didn’t know how to answer, so she just stared up at him.<br />
  53. 53. “Your room is straight up these stairs, the first door on the left. There are a couple of guest rooms down the hall past yours and mine is in the south wing of the house. Also in the south wing are the servants’ quarters which I forbid you to enter.”<br />She nodded in response.<br />
  54. 54. “Your maid hasn’t arrived yet, I’m afraid. Until she does, you may have use of one of the kitchen girls. She’ll be around. She has brown hair and freckles. If you see her, feel free to request anything. Any questions?”<br />Alessandra shook her head. The notion of having a personal maid was odd – usually she was the one waiting on others.<br />
  55. 55. “Then I suppose I’ll see you tonight.” Carlo leaned in and kissed her on the forehead, making Alessandra cringe. Already she hated the feeling of his moist lips pressed against her aching head. How will I ever survive tonight…<br />Carlo dismissed her with an awkward wave of the hand and left in search of his overseer.<br />
  56. 56. Alessandra trudged up the stairs, glad to be rid of her husband.<br />
  57. 57. After sleeping most of the day away, Alessandra was woken up with a tray of supper and an eager-looking kitchen maid hovering about her. After eating, she sunk deep into the bathtub.<br />Perfumed water swirled around her body and bubbles popped in her ears. The soft sound of water sloshing against the sides of the bathtub echoed through the room, the only sound breaking the silence that had oppressed her since her arrival.<br />The only person she had spoken to other that Carlo was the kitchen maid, a strange difference from her years at home. There used to always be someone near to talk to. Now she was alone. Carlo had no other family, his parents were dead and his one sister had been married off long ago.<br />
  58. 58. When she stepped out of the tub, the water that coated her body made her shiver. She toweled herself off quickly and pulled her shift over her head. The linen garment helped a little. After wringing out her wet hair, she pulled it back into a braid and peered in the mirror.<br />
  59. 59. So far Carlo hadn’t raised any objections to her appearance. Alessandra supposed she could be considered pretty. She had the pale skin and blonde hair that was envied by so many, but she couldn’t allow herself to feel beautiful. Some women were gorgeous, they collected lovers and inspired feuds, but Alessandra would never be one of them.<br />
  60. 60. Before she had had a taste of the world, she had been sent out to the countryside to waste away as a young bride. She would never know the excitement of a secret lover or the joy of sneaking away on a tryst. No, all she had to look forward to was raising child after child until her body gave out.<br />Not if I can help it.<br />
  61. 61. Alessandra left the mirror and walked up to her bed. Propping her neck up with a pillow, she smiled at her secret pamphlet tucked deep inside her cassone. The gift from her mother was a useful tool she hadn’t known she needed. The pamphlet, she had read it over dinner, provided answers to questions she couldn’t have ever imagined. It had also suggested several solutions to prevent children.<br />
  62. 62. For a while at least, Alessandra could rest easily without worrying about having to care for children before she was good and ready.<br />
  63. 63. The kitchen maid had been long since dismissed by the time Carlo came into her bedchamber. Alessandra herself was nearly asleep.<br />
  64. 64. He cleared his throat and climbed the stairs. A sense of panic rose in her chest and Alessandra’s heart began to beat rapidly as she resisted the urge to flee.<br />She gritted her teeth as he grew closer. He came to the other side of the bed and sat down next to her.<br />
  65. 65. Her heart clenched when he took her by the waist and pulled her over.<br />As he pressed his body next to hers, Alessandra let her mind wander in an effort to escape the situation.<br />
  66. 66. She conjugated Latin verbs in an attempt to tear her attention from the strange sensation of Carlo touching her where no one had ever touched before.<br />Effugio…effugis…effugit…effugimus…effugitis…effugiunt…<br />
  67. 67. Streams of sunlight forced their way through the space between the curtains and rested on Alessandra’s face. She stirred gently in her bed and opened one eye at a time.<br />She was relieved to see that Carlo had left sometime during the night, but shocked to see that he had left a ring in his place.<br />
  68. 68. She got out of bed and walked to the other side slowly, pulling the blankets up neatly before looking at the piece of jewelry. It was a gold and ruby ring and a note addressed to his “wife”.<br />
  69. 69. It was true; she was now Carlo’s wife in every sense of the word. He had taken her last night as his own, making an annulment impossible.<br />
  70. 70. She slipped the ring on her first finger. It fit perfectly.<br />Crumpling the paper in her fist, she tossed it to the floor for the maid to find later when she came in to clean.<br />
  71. 71. She moved quietly over to her cassone, not wanting to alert any one the household staff that she was up and about. A painting of the Virgin Mary holding baby Jesus hung over the wooden box, sending a message to encourage fertility. Ignoring the scene, she dug deep into the cassone and pulled out her mother’s letter and the pamphlet that went along with it. Do not be afraid to take risks…<br />
  72. 72. Taking courage in her mother’s advice, she flipped through the pages until she found what she was searching for.<br />She may have gotten married, but now was not the time for a baby.<br />_ _<br />
  73. 73. “Alright, buddy. Throw ten more coins in the pot if you’re so confident!” Giac nudged Lucio playfully and took another swig from his cup.<br />Lucio played along and threw a handful of coins in the center of the table, fingering his cards with a devilish smile. “Let’s see what you got, boys.”<br />
  74. 74. Giacomo, Lucio, and Paolo, another friend from University, all laid their hands down on the table at the same time. Giac and Paolo groaned while Lucio shouted in joy – he had the winning hand. He reached forward to pull the money towards him when Kari cleared her throat gently, interrupting his gloating.<br />
  75. 75. “Forgetting about me, are you?” She laid her cards down delicately and a smug grin appeared on her face. “Looks like I win.”<br />Lucio cursed and pushed the money towards Kari which she gratefully accepted.<br />
  76. 76. Under the table, her foot found Giac’s and she gently tapped it with her slipper, making him blush. To cover it up, he took another drink from his cup and shuffled the cards. “Another round?”<br />Slurred shouts of agreement went around the table and Giac quickly dealt out another hand for each player.<br />
  77. 77. They were halfway through the round, exchanging insults and brags amongst one another, when their friendly late-night game of Primero was interrupted by an intruder.<br />He was a scraggly looking man, come in off the street. He came up to the table and waited subserviently to be acknowledged. “Table’s full, pal. Buzz off.” Paolo grumbled at the stranger who he was sure was peeking at his cards.<br />
  78. 78. “I have a message to deliver.” The stranger didn’t leave but pulled a piece of paper out of his tunic instead.<br />“Who for?” Lucio glanced up at the man with curiosity.<br />“A Signor Giacomo Moretti. Could one of you tell me where to find him?”<br />
  79. 79. Giac laid his cards face down and held his hand out for the note. When the stranger didn’t give it over, Giac drew a silver coin from his pocket and held it out. With greedy eyes, the messenger exchanged the money for the slip of parchment.<br />
  80. 80. Giac opened it up and read quickly as the messenger turned to leave. The message made his heart sink: Come home now. Father is ill. – Nico.<br />
  81. 81. “When did you get this?” Giac lunged forward to grab the messenger and prevent him from leaving.<br />“Uh, yesterday, signor. I was in Florence, about to leave for Pisa when a boy stopped me and begged to take the letter along with me.”<br />“What boy?”<br />
  82. 82. “I don’t know, signor. He was youngish; perhaps fourteen or fifteen. He had dark hair, like you, but his eyes were green. He had on nice clothes; must’ve come from a good family.”<br />
  83. 83. “Thank you. That will be all.” Giac crumpled the paper in his hand and headed for the exit. His head suddenly more clear from the shock, he immediately began making a list of all that had to be done before he could leave.<br />Still at the table, the remaining three watched as Giac hustled from the room, followed closely by the messenger. Lucio eyed the cards he had left behind, wondering what could be so urgent that would call his friend from their nightly game.<br />
  84. 84. “Wait!” Kari threw her cards down on the table and pushed her chair back.<br />
  85. 85. She chased him down the hall, a good ten feet behind, until she caught up at the bottom of the staircase. “Where are you rushing off to?”<br />
  86. 86. Noticing her for the first time, Giac turned around with an expression in his eyes that was difficult to read; sorrow mixed with worry. “Sorry, I didn’t know you followed me.”<br />“No need to be apologetic; what was in the note?” she motioned to his fist which was still clenched tightly around the paper.<br />
  87. 87. “It’s from my, um, brother, Nico. He says my father’s ill…” Giac’s voice caught on the last word so he paused for a moment to regain his composure. “So he wants me to come back home.”<br />Kari stepped closer in an effort to provide come comfort. “Do you want me to come with you?” Though she knew she shouldn’t, she prayed he would say yes.<br />“No.” Her heart fell, but she didn’t let it show.<br />
  88. 88. “It’s a tempting offer, Kari, but I’ve got too much to do. Besides, I don’t know if it would be wise for my family to meet you. You know, considering the circumstances…”<br />“Yes, I know.” No matter how delicately he tried to put it, Giac’s words dug deeply into Kari, wounding her. The truth of her station never ceased to cause her pain. She had been raised to be a courtesan, a bit of practice for university boys in preparation for marriage, and she knew that she was good at her job, but this year she had broken the cardinal rule that had been pounded into her very being since she was little: fall in love and you lose.<br />
  89. 89. But when she met Giac all the rules had flown from her head and now it seemed she could never go back. She had gone too far and was now drowning. Giac was already pulling away, far too reasonable to forsake his position in life for someone like her.<br />Yes, he would go back home and Kari would remain here, forced to put on a happy face for the next cycle of young boys to arrive, eager for their first taste of love. “Will you be back?”<br />
  90. 90. “I cannot say. It all depends…on how ill my father is.” Giac felt his composure slipping away from him again and he desperately wanted to make it to his room before he fell apart. “I may find myself the head of my family, if God wills it.”<br />“Well, if that is the case, I know you’ll be great.” Kari started to back down the hall.<br />
  91. 91. Before she could make it more than a few steps, Giac took her hand and kissed it gently. “Thank you.”<br />Kari’s hand tingled as it always did at his touch, but this time tears filled her eyes. The last time…<br />“Better get going if you want to leave at first light…”<br />
  92. 92. “Oh, yes.” Giac turned and went up the stairs two at a time, newly refocused on the developing situation at home.<br />Kari stayed planted on the cold flagstones, watching him and praying that he would turn at look back. Just once…<br />But he didn’t. Arrivederci, il mio amore.<br />
  93. 93. “So do you think either one of them are coming back?” Lucio fingered through his cards again, rearranging them this time from highest to lowest value.<br />Paolo leaned back in his chair and peered down the hall. “Doesn’t look like it. Giacomo’s gone upstairs and Kari’s wandered into the library, I think.”<br />
  94. 94. “Well then,” Lucio reached to his right and pulled Giac’s cards in front of him, “what say you we keep the round going? I can take these cards and you’ll take hers.”<br />Paolo’s eyes fell greedily on the neat stack of coins by Kari’s empty seat. “And the money? I get hers and you take his?”<br />
  95. 95. “Sure thing!” Lucio dexterously maneuvered Giac’s significantly smaller pile of money to join with his, smiling on the inside. Taking a peek at his new cards, he was relieved to find that his gamble had paid off.<br />
  96. 96. Just before the messenger had arrived, Lucio had spied Giacomo lightly tapping his fingers on the table, a nervous habit meaning he had been dealt a good hand. “So, who’s first?”<br />
  97. 97. “Signora Alessandra,” Rina, Alessandra’s personal maid, hovered in the doorway, “you have a visitor.”<br />
  98. 98. Alessandra laid down her quill and sighed. “Who is it?” If it was one of her husband’s friends, she would have to take time to dress her hair and apply some cosmetics, something she did not want to take time from her work to do.<br />“A Signor Lucio Guardi. He says he has urgent news. Shall I send him up?”<br />
  99. 99. Alessandra smiled and closed the book she had been translating from Latin into Italian, “Yes! Send him up immediately!” She couldn’t help but smile at the thought of seeing her old friend.<br />Rina bowed her head and left to retrieve the guest.<br />
  100. 100. Alessandra rushed to her mirror and pinched her cheeks in an effort to make them pinker. She wouldn’t need to make up her face to impress a friend like Lucio, but it couldn’t hurt to look her best.<br />
  101. 101. When she heard footsteps growing near, she dashed from the bath room and positioned herself demurely in front of the door.<br />Rina opened the door and ushered Lucio inside, “Signora, ti presento Signor Guardi.”<br />
  102. 102. “Lucio!” Alessandra impulsively flung herself into his strong arms and hugged him tightly. “So good to see you!” Since her marriage nearly a year ago, she hadn’t made a trip back home yet and it was an unexpected relief to see a familiar face.<br />
  103. 103. “Likewise, signora.” Lucio pulled back slightly and tried not to blush. As Alessandra retreated back to an acceptable distance, he couldn’t help but admire her. She has matured since her wedding.<br />
  104. 104. “So…what brings you all the way out here? Just felt like popping in for a visit?” Alessandra forced out a laugh, but let it trail off when she saw his grave expression.<br />“I’m afraid not. I’ve come to offer myself as your escort.”<br />“Escort? But I’m not going anywhere.” Carlo had certainly put an end to her dreams of travel when she had begged him a few months back to let her explore the nearby hamlets. It wasn’t proper for a wife of her station to be cavorting with peasants.<br />
  105. 105. “So you haven’t heard?” Lucio asked hesitantly. He had come expecting Alessandra to have already received a message and he wouldn’t have to tell her himself.<br />“No. What’s wrong?”<br />Lucio took a deep breath before beginning, “Last night your brother received a message from Nico, saying that your father is seriously ill. Did you not get one as well?”<br />
  106. 106. “No!” Alessandra’s face crumpled into an expression of worry, tears beginning to fall. “Do you know what happened? Or why nobody bothered to tell me?”<br />“I’m sorry, but no.” Lucio hesitated for a second, but put his arm around her anyway. “Giacomo left in a rush early this morning and I came over here to get you.”<br />“He asked you to come? That was nice of him to think of me.”<br />
  107. 107. “Uh, yeah.” Lucio’s cheeks colored at the lie. The truth was that Giacomo had left before he could say anything to him about her. After prying the story from a rather reluctant Kari, Lucio’s thoughts had flown unbidden to Alessandra and it was on an impulse that he rode out to accompany her back home. “So…how long will it take for you to be ready to leave?”<br />“Oh, an hour maybe.” Alessandra straightened and pulled away from Lucio, turning her attention to Rina. “Please pack my things in a trunk, I’ll be back to collect them soon.”<br />
  108. 108. The maid, who had seated herself discretely on the chair against the wall, nodded her head in agreement. She had watched the entire meeting closely, reading the body language. She had been hired by Carlo, not Alessandra, and even after weeks of service, she wasn’t quite sure where her loyalties lay. The information might turn out useful later.<br />“Where are we going?” Lucio asked, following Alessandra from the room.<br />“To find my husband. I’ll need his permission before I can leave.”<br />
  109. 109. “Ah.” Lucio followed closely at her heels as they wound through the extensively decorated halls. “Nice place you’ve got here.”<br />“Hmmm.” Alessandra answered bitterly.<br />
  110. 110. “What’s that supposed to mean?” he asked as he glanced over a balcony. Fields of grape vines stretched out into the distance. So Signor Carlo owns a vineyard.<br />
  111. 111. “Nothing. Just…hmmm.” Alessandra kept her answer vague as she reached the door to her husband’s study and knocked. A muffled enter came from inside and she undid the latch and swung open the solid door that barred her from the world of her husband’s business.<br />
  112. 112. “Can I help you?” Carlo asked in a short tone when he saw his wife coming in, a strange man following her. He leaned back in his chair and pushed his book away, irritated that his research had been interrupted.<br />“This is a close friend of my brother, Signor Guardi, and he has come to tell me that my father is ill and I need to go home. May I go?”<br />
  113. 113. Carlo looked over the two people standing at his desk slowly. “I recognize you, signor.”<br />“I was at your wedding a while back.”<br />“Ah, now I remember. So you say my wife’s father is ill? Is it serious?”<br />“I cannot say, signor. The message Giacomo received was not very detailed.”<br />
  114. 114. “Message…hold on.” Carlo reached down into his desk drawer and sifted around for a few seconds before closing it again, empty-handed. “Well, a similar message came for you late last night, but you were already in bed. Can’t seem to remember where I put it, though.”<br />“A message came for me and you kept it?” Alessandra spoke through clenched teeth in an effort to control her emotions. Lucio saw the way her hands tightened at her sides and he took a couple of steps back, waiting for an argument to erupt.<br />
  115. 115. Instead, Carlo gave her an indulgent look and spoke in a lofty tone, “Exactly. As your husband, anything of yours is mine. Do we really need to have this conversation again?”<br />“No, signor. Sorry.”<br />Lucio watched Alessandra deflate before his eyes, a phenomenon he had never experienced. All the times they had met, she had been a force to be reckoned with; but when facing her husband, she was powerless.<br />
  116. 116. Carlo adjusted his attention to look past his wife and speak with Lucio, “I’m afraid I’m wrapped up in business at the moment, but if you’d be willing to act as her escort, I will consent to the trip.”<br />“Of course, Signor. You need not worry; I will be next to her the entire way.”<br />“Yes, yes.” Carlo rose from his seat and joined the circle, “I think I will be done supervising the harvest within a week. I will ride to town to join you, so don’t come back too early.”<br />
  117. 117. Alessandra nodded her consent and braced herself for the kiss she knew was coming. Carlo leaned in and pushed his lips against hers, a gesture more to mark his territory than show his affection.<br />“Behave,” he warned her like she was a child.<br />
  118. 118. She lowered her eyes in submission and hurried from the room, motioning Lucio to come with her.<br />Carlo saw them to the door, all the while eyeing the suspiciously. Once or twice, he swore Lucio had looked at his wife for a second too long, but he shrugged the thought off. He was just being paranoid.<br />
  119. 119. But then again…see how he waits for her.<br />Carlo forced himself to leave the doorway, promising himself that he would finish work as fast as possible and get to Florence as soon as he could.<br />
  120. 120. “As soon as they load the trunks, we can go,” Alessandra explained to Rina and Lucio, who stood off to the side, kindly letting her take control of the situation.<br />Upon returning to her room, she had joined Rina in a mad dash to pack up her personal belongings as quickly as they could. Lucio had even pitched in to help the servants carry the trunks down to the waiting cart.<br />
  121. 121. She walked swiftly past the boxes, her long skirts dragging in the pebbles that covered the ground, and pulled herself up into the back of the cart to wait for the job to be finished.<br />Lucio followed close behind with Rina bringing up the rear. They all settled in among the red curtains and overstuffed pillows that had been laid out in an effort to make the wooden bottom more comfortable.<br />
  122. 122. Alessandra rested against the back corner, peeking out between the curtains to check on progress. Instead she saw Carlo peeking out the window, watching. With a gasp, she dropped the curtain and let it swing back into place.<br />When he wasn’t hovering around her, he was out in the fields with his overseer, working on perfecting his next batch of grapes. Such extremes exhausted Alessandra; suffocation and abandonment did not balance out one another.<br />
  123. 123. Nice carriage you’ve got here.” Lucio noted as he settled in next to her, fluffing up a pillow under his back.<br />“Thank you. It’s Carlo’s, though.” Alessandra said politely as she peeked through a curtain on the other side of the cart. The last two trunks were being pulled towards the back as she spoke.<br />
  124. 124. Lucio nudged her foot to get her attention. “How is ol’ Carlo these days? I saw he’s running a vineyard; pretty successful from the looks of it.”<br />
  125. 125. “I don’t want to talk about it.”<br />
  126. 126. “Oh.” Lucio looked sheepishly at his feet, at a loss for words. It was a strange feeling, but it passed quickly. “So, who is worse?”<br />
  127. 127. “Huh?” Alessandra finally turned her attention to him.<br />“Who is worse? Carlo or Viola?” He held his breath, praying the question would go over well.<br />
  128. 128. Alessandra stared at him for a second and then tipped her head back and laughed. It felt nice to laugh; she hadn’t in so long. “I couldn’t say! They’re both terrible.”<br />
  129. 129. “Well if you were able to survive her, you can make it through anything.”<br />Alessandra’s mood darkened as the carriage lurched forward and began to amble slowly down the road.<br />“Sorry.”<br />His words lingered in the air between them for several long seconds before she answered coldly, “You have no idea what I’ve had to survive, Lucio.”<br />
  130. 130. “Would you like to, well, talk about it?”<br />“No.”<br />“Oh.” His heart twisted at seeing the pain he had caused her. Why couldn’t he ever say the right thing? For a while, the only sound was gravel crunching under the heavy wooden wheels.<br />
  131. 131. “Please talk about something else.” Her words cut through the air, shocking him.<br />
  132. 132. “Well…I did pretty well at cards last night.” He spoke hesitantly, double and triple checking everything before it came out of his mouth.<br />
  133. 133. “Gambling is sinful,” she answered with the hint of a smirk playing at the edges of her mouth.<br />
  134. 134. This time it was Lucio who laughed out loud.<br />
  135. 135. Giacomo was slightly unsettled at the stiff silence that had descended over the house since his last visit. The downstairs rooms were cold and quiet; no fires had been lit since Niccolo had fallen ill.<br />The sound of soft crying wafted down the stairs, capturing his attention. He pulled his tunic closer to his body and started up with heavy feet.<br />
  136. 136. His two stepsisters were huddled together outside his father’s chamber door, a mess of teary eyes and runny noses. Ghita was bawling while Renata made an effort to comfort her younger sister. “It will all be okay soon…”<br />
  137. 137. His footsteps startled both girls and they snapped their attention to the dark figure coming towards them.<br />“Oh, Giacomo! You came!” Renata flew towards her brother, arms outstretched for a hug.<br />“Um, where is everybody?” Giac held back with his arms folded over his chest.<br />
  138. 138. Renata took the hint and went no closer. “Inside,” she motioned towards the door behind her. “Mother and Nico are sitting by the fire while father rests.”<br />
  139. 139. “The physician is checking up on him again.” Ghita added with a sniff. “He says the outlook isn’t good.” Her words brought forth another round of tears.<br />
  140. 140. Giac nodded his head sharply and pushed past the teary girls.<br />The heavy scent of sickness and too many people crowded together assaulted his nose when he opened the door. He steeled himself towards the bad news he was sure to receive and made a beeline for the physician.<br />
  141. 141. The physician was hovering over Niccolo’s stiff form when Giac entered. He replaced the herbs in a small cup next to the bed before turning his attention to the younger man who had just entered.<br />
  142. 142. “What happened?” Giac asked, motioning towards the bed.<br />The physician took a deep breath before beginning. “Four days ago, I was called over to tend to your father who, apparently, had suffered from heart spasms and a deep pain in his chest. He had fallen into a seizure during dinner, which scared the family half to death.”<br />“What have you done to heal him?”<br />“I bled him as much as his body could stand, but he’s too weak now for me to do much more. All that’s left to do is pray.”<br />
  143. 143. “Has he regained consciousness at all since that night during dinner?”<br />“Oh, yes. He was quite lucid the morning after I was called. He wrote a bit, but it the effort strained him and I’ve forbidden him from such exertion.”<br />“And he hasn’t woken since?”<br />“Not completely, I’m afraid. He’s had his rare moments of clarity, but most of the time his mind is fuzzy. He hardly makes sense anymore.”<br />
  144. 144. “Thank you.” He clapped the physician on the shoulder, dismissing him.<br />
  145. 145. The carriage jostled under the resting bodies and the movements that had been annoying an hour ago were now lulling them into a deeper sleep.<br />
  146. 146. When the horses came to a halt and the cart stopped rocking, Lucio’s eyes opened.<br />He looked around in confusion, forgetting for a second where he was.<br />Once he realized that he had fallen asleep sometime during the journey and that Alessandra was now drooling down his shoulder, he gently pulled his arm out from underneath her head and shook it to regain its feeling.<br />
  147. 147. Her head tipped sharply, waking her as well. With a snort she sat back up and looked at Lucio with embarrassment. “Sorry I used you as a pillow.”<br />
  148. 148. With an easy smile, Lucio tumbled out of the cart, stretched his stiff limbs, and said “Don’t worry about it. I’ve been told I’ve got feathers for brains before. Apparently I’ve got ‘em in my shoulder too.”<br />Alessandra laughed and, tapping Rina lightly to wake her up, exited the cart behind him. “Let’s go.”<br />She headed towards the front door, her smile waning with each step closer she took. The windows were dark, the grounds quiet. Nothing like she remembered.<br />
  149. 149. The halls echoed their footsteps eerily as Alessandra led Lucio up the stairs. It was so quiet that she heard the rattling wheels of the cart outside as the horses starting moving again, lumbering down the dusty road towards the heart of town. Carlo rented a house there for use in the off-season and had given Alesssandra permission to use it.<br />
  150. 150. Renata and Ghita, who were still lingering outside the door, perked up some when they saw the two figures ascending the stairs.<br />Alessandra greeted them with a sort-of smile and pushed right in to the bedroom, not bothering to knock.<br />
  151. 151. Glancing around and seeing most of the people jammed around the fireplace, she headed into the inner-most room of the chamber to find her father.<br />The sight of him lying in the bed, his face pale and drawn, made her heart clench. She hadn’t expected him to be this bad.<br />
  152. 152. Instinctively she wedged herself in Giac’s arms and felt his protective nature surround her. With her brother, the world seemed easier to face, if only a little.<br />“I’m glad you came. Nico sent you a note, too?”<br />
  153. 153. “Not exactly. I got one, but-” A rustling sound made her stop talking and draw back from Giac. She saw her father pushing his blankets back and struggling in an effort to get out of bed. “Oh, father, you’re awake!”<br />
  154. 154. His arms were shaking with the effort to hold up his weight, so she rushed to his side and took him by the elbow to help him up. Once he was balanced on his feet, though, he didn’t let go.<br />
  155. 155. Instead he pulled her into a hug. “Oh my darling Renee; I knew I heard your voice!” Alessandra stiffened in his grip and twisted her head to look at Giac, a frightened expression on her face.<br />He shifted his weight nervously. “The physician said his head isn’t all the way there, if you know what I mean.”<br />“Yes, Daddy, I’m here. Me: Alessandra; your daughter.” Alessandra spoke to him slowly, hoping that she could make it clear to him.<br />
  156. 156. It was if he didn’t even hear her. “Yes, yes, Renee. I knew you would come back to me! You’ve changed your hair, though. I like it. It makes you look younger.” Alessandra could see the glint of tears that were beginning to leak from the corners of his eyes. Anxiously, she pulled away.<br />“Come on; let’s get you to lie down again.” She steered him back towards the bed and helped ease him onto the feather mattress. “You need your rest.”<br />He fought against her, trying to sit up again. “But you just came back!”<br />
  157. 157. Alessandra plastered a smile on her face though inside it was killing her. “I’ll be back.” She hurried from the room, near tears, and cringed when she heard her father begging her to take him with her.<br />
  158. 158. Everyone in the room stared at her, wondering what she had done to cause such apparent distress to the family patriarch. She pushed past their questioning glares, Viola’s was the worst, and came right up to Lucio. He had found a spot standing next to the window, watching the rain that had begun to patter against the panes.<br />
  159. 159. “He doesn’t recognize me. He thinks I’m my mother.” Alessandra’s tears began to fall. With a comforting look, Lucio pulled her close and held her tightly.<br />“It will all be ok. We will make it through this.”<br />
  160. 160. “I always loved her, you know.”<br />“Huh?” When Alessandra left the room, a change came over Niccolo. No longer did he seem dazed and far away. Giac could only guess that he had slipped in to a moment of lucidity.<br />“Your mother. I never stopped loving her. Not even after she died.”<br />Giac just stared, unsure why he was hearing the details of his father’s feelings.<br />
  161. 161. “She was my whole world, my other half, and now I…” his shoulders drooped and his eyes became unfocused as his sentence trailed off. The clarity was gone. “She’s back!” Though he slurred, his words were full of joy. “I see her now, coming towards me. Such beauty.”<br />His eyes were locked on nothing, at least nothing Giac could see. He looked around to see if Alessandra had come back, but no one else was in the room.<br />
  162. 162. Looking back at his father, he was shocked to see him reaching out for nothing. He held his hand out, clamped around an invisible hand.<br />
  163. 163. “Signor! Signor!” Giac bolted from the room, calling for the physician.<br />
  164. 164. He snapped to attention, grabbed his tools, and ran back to his patient’s side.<br />“It’s going to be soon.” Giac announced sadly to the room.<br />
  165. 165. As he spoke, the door opened and the two girls entered, followed solemnly by a priest.<br />
  166. 166. Giac stepped forward to greet him. “Thank you for coming, Father.”<br />“I’ve been prepared for days, Signor. I was just waiting for the signal from Nico before I came.”<br />“Well, thank you. He is in there.” He directed the Priest towards the bed, thankful for Nico’s forward thinking.<br />
  167. 167. Not long after, the Physician emerged with a grave expression and announced to the company that Niccolo had passed on.<br />
  168. 168. Everyone rose immediately and shoved through the doorway. They gathered around the bed, hardly a dry eye, to honor the passing of the head of the family.<br />
  169. 169. Silently, the band dispersed. Alessandra gathered her sisters and walked them to the room that they shared, tucking them gently into bed.<br />
  170. 170. She walked with Nico, too, though they parted ways at his door.<br />
  171. 171. Lastly, she saw Lucio off, insisting that he could go back to her townhouse and take a room there for the night. “There’s too much to do here tonight; I don’t want to drag you into any of this.”<br />“Alright, but I’ll be back first thing in the morning.”<br />
  172. 172. He leaned in for a hug, turning at the last second and giving her a kiss on the cheek.<br />Alessandra blushed furiously but sent him off into the night anyway. <br />
  173. 173. In a silent truce, Alessandra came together with Viola for one night. They worked in grieving harmony while they prepared Niccolo’s body for his funeral, putting aside their differences if only for one night.<br />
  174. 174. As the young ones drifted off to sleep, the same disheartening thought echoed through all of their heads.<br />What will become of me now?<br />
  175. 175. Giacomo held all of the cards now. As head of the family, he now had the power to control the futures of his family members. Even (especially) Viola.<br />As his sister and stepmother toiled away down the hall, Giacomo sealed himself in his father’s office in preparation for a long night.<br />First he penned letters to all family members, informing them of the death. Next, he set about arranging the funeral that would have to take place soon.<br />
  176. 176. After writing dozens of letters ordering flowers, food, services, horses, etc., Giac sat back in his chair and sighed. His attention wandered to the bookshelf and the family treasure he knew sat on the top shelf.<br />He put aside his quill and parchment, tucking them safely into the bottom drawer, and pulled out the heavy volume.<br />
  177. 177. Flipping through the pages, a dusty smell filled his nostrils and he tingled with excitement. He felt like a naughty boy again, searching through the pages of his father’s Libro di Ricordanze. When he was little, Giacomo had often snuck into the office late at night to study the pages and pages of family records.<br />They went all the way back to his great grandfather, Giovanni Moretti, who had founded this branch of the family, and detailed everything from business deals to marriage contracts. Anything that had happened of even the slightest importance had been recorded for posterity’s sake.<br />
  178. 178. Any time he had been caught, his hand had been smacked and he had endured a lengthy lecture cautioning him to stay out.<br />But now, the Ricordanze was his to go over and add to.<br />He turned back page after page until he found what he was searching for.<br />
  179. 179. …<br />May 12<br />I cancelled my lessons and appointments today. I married Renee Dupont, the niece of Signore Alberti, a friend of the family. Renee’s things were moved into her chamber this morning and she moved in directly after the ceremony.<br />Now we shall consummate our marriage.<br />-Niccolo<br />…<br />
  180. 180. …<br />March 29<br />A son! This morning I write joyous news: God has granted me a son!<br />Renee felt the first pains of labor last night and I called for a midwife. Mother wanted to deliver the baby, but I refused.<br />Giacomo will be baptized tomorrow in the church of Santa Maria del Fiore. Renee is recovering well.<br />Many relatives have sent gifts. Caterina sent a gold cup; Giuseppe sent sweets; the wives of the professors sent a set of embroidered cloth. Many more gifts are expected.<br />-Niccolo<br />…<br />
  181. 181. …<br />January 8<br />Early this morning, our daughter was called back to her heavenly father. Thank God she was baptized before she died. I shudder to picture her innocent soul stuck <br />forever in purgatory. Father tried to practice medicine on her, but it was no use. She was so frail. I cannot help but wonder if things would have gone differently had I hired a midwife. Right now Renee is recovering. I have not spoken to her yet. At least I have my son: my one and only. God bless him and keep him safe.<br />-Niccolo<br />…<br />…<br />January 7<br />Mother woke me early this morning to tell me that Renee had begun to give birth. I wanted to<br /> send for a midwife but mother said no; she would aid Renee. It is too early for the baby to be born. I fear for his or her life. I pray to God for a healthy delivery.<br />-Niccolo<br />…<br />
  182. 182. …<br />November 10<br />Happy news is tempered with sadness. God has given me a healthy daughter this evening, but Renee is having trouble with her recovery. The midwife says it is childbed fever. I was informed of all this tonight when Giacomo and I came back from school. On a side note, Giacomo is excelling in his studies. I am a proud father. Please, God, do not take another.<br />-Niccolo<br />…<br />…<br />November 11<br />Renee is slightly recovered. Caterina is staying with us to take care of her while she is sick. The child is still healthy and Giac has taken a liking to her. Please, God, keep Renee strong.<br />-Niccolo<br />…<br />
  183. 183. …<br />November 12<br />Terrible news. My dear wife is dead. Renee died this afternoon after a disappointing visit from the doctor. Catherine cared for her diligently, but there was nothing she could do. The doctor said her infection had spread too far for the medicine to help.<br />A great sadness has fallen on the house. I do not know what to do. I sent Giacomo and the baby, recently baptized Alessandra, to live with Heather, the daughter of Catherine, until I can care for them on my own.<br />It's only been a couple of hours, but I miss her terribly. The pain cuts deeply and I know that will never go. I will begin preparations for her funeral tomorrow.Rest in peace.<br />-Niccolo<br />…<br />
  184. 184. Reading through his father’s entries certainly provided some insight into some of his decisions. The entries were curt and to the point, like his father had been during life, but they gave Giac some much-needed insight into Niccolo’s actions.<br />Turning to the last page with writing, Giacomo inhaled sharply. The handwriting was his father’s, but it was shakier than the previous entries had been. Clearly it had been an effort to write.<br />
  185. 185. …<br />June 18I am dying. Two days ago, I felt a deep pain in my chest and I passed out. Now all my strength is gone: I cannot even stand and my hand trembles as I write this. I know that I have not much time left on this earth.The doctor bled me countless times and the prospects are not good. I sent for Giacomo this afternoon and he will arrive shortly.My son, my true son. You are my oldest and my heir. I know I leave the family in good hands and I hope you continue to lead the Moretti family to greatness.<br />My final notes:- I spent 7 lire on your sister’s marriage. Some of the accounts have not yet been paid. All my other expenses have already been.- I've been planning your wedding recently and, although I have not finished everything, all my notes are here. Looking back a few pages and you will find them.- Watch out for Viola. I'm sure you saw her true nature and I know that is not good. What ever you seek, do not let her stand in your way.Know that I love all my children very much. In particular you and Alessandra.Pray for my soul.<br />-Niccolo Moretti<br />
  186. 186. Turning the page once more, Giacomo stared at the oddly blank piece of parchment that faced him. The rest of the pages had been filled with letters, wrinkled from the drying ink.<br />With slight hesitation, he picked up a pen and added his first entry.<br />
  187. 187. June 20Fame to the dead comes too late.<br />Perhaps too late now, I wish to honor my father and all the good he did for our family. He was a great man, honorable and smart, and I mourn his death. He died in the early hours of this morning, scarcely an hour after receiving his final confession and absolution. The priest, Viola, the three young ones, and I were all present. Alessandra, accompanied by Lucio, was there as well.<br />I am now the head of the family, responsible for all and in search of my future. My schooling is now finished; I cannot go back now that I have so much to take care of. I must move quickly now; there is no time to be idle. His funeral will take place tomorrow.<br />-Giacomo Moretti<br />
  188. 188. _ _<br />
  189. 189. “Thank you for coming over today, Signor DiPaolo.” Giacomo shook the hand of the notary who had come over early Saturday morning as a special favor. “I wanted to get this over with as soon as possible.”<br />
  190. 190. Giovanni DiPaolo nodded sharply and sat down, pulling a rolled piece of parchment from his robes. “Signor Moretti, you understand that putting your father’s will into action will take some time…”<br />“Yes, yes. My father’s funeral is tomorrow and I am anxious to tie up as many loose ends as I can before I am flooded with guests.”<br />
  191. 191. “Very well.” Giovanni unrolled the stiff parchment and cleared his voice to read.<br />
  192. 192. I , Niccolo Moretti, bequest my possessions to my oldest son, Giacomo Moretti, upon my death. This includes the Moretti House, everything inside, and all of the surrounding property that totals fourteen acres.<br />To the church I give one half of all the money I have saved. It is kept in the Moretti Bank in my main account.<br />Out of my remaining money, take enough to commission one ring in my memory for each of the following people: my children: Giacomo, Alessandra, Renata, Niccolo, and Margherita. My siblings that live in Italy: Caterina, Giuseppe, and Christoforo. Also one for my niece, Heather, for the great kindness she showed me.<br />To my sister, Lucrezia, I wish one ring to be given along with my apologies for my animosity towards her for so many years.<br />To Alessandra I give ten books of her choosing taken from my personal library. I also give her all of her mother's jewelry and personal belongings, kept for years in storage.<br />Nico is destined for the church. I set aside enough money to ensure his future as a priest in the bank in my second account. To him, I leave him the bible I recently had made. It was originally meant for his fourteenth birthday, but give it to him now.<br />Renata and Ghita have money set aside for their dowries when they marry: fifty lire each, to remain in coin, and fifty more, each, to purchase items for their trousseaus.<br />
  193. 193. As for Viola, it is up to her to decide if she wants to stay or go back to her family. If she decides to go, she will have her dowry back but all of her belongings will be divided between Renata and Ghita when they are married. If she stays, Giac will be her new master.Please donate my clothes and the rest of my libraryto my school. I know that they need the items more than I.As for me, I wish to be buried alongside my first wife and true love, Renee. Please pray for my soul.<br />-Niccolo Moretti<br />-Giovanni DiPaolo<br />notary<br />
  194. 194. Once he finished, Viola, who had been silent the entire time, spoke up, “Signor, when was this will drafted?”<br />
  195. 195. Giovanni pointed to the date at the top and explained “Back in June, Signora. It’s in Latin, so I understand why you are confused. But I assure you it was written and notarized by yours truly. It’s iron-clad.”<br />
  196. 196. “I see.” Viola’s face remained stony, though her mind was racing in an attempt to figure out a way to come out on top. Her three children had been duly cared for in the will, but she had ended up with the short end of the stick and she wasn’t accustomed to losing.<br />
  197. 197. Giovanni rolled the will back up and slipped it into his robes. “If that is all, Signor, I will be on my way.”<br />“Of course. Thank you for coming in today.” Giacomo stood and saw the notary to the door, leaving Viola behind to wallow in her stubborn silence.<br />
  198. 198. Late that night as Giacomo was on his way to bed he rounded a corner and nearly ran smack into Viola. Startled by her presence at the late hour, he stepped to the side to let her pass. It was a habit left over from childhood; if they ever met in the halls, she forced him aside and reprimanded his inability to watch where he was going.<br />
  199. 199. But tonight, in a shocking turn of events, Viola stepped aside to let him pass.<br />As he did, she bowed her head humbly and mumbled, “My apologies, Signor. I wasn’t watching where I was going.”<br />
  200. 200. A deep sense of satisfaction flooded Giac’s senses. A broad smile spread across his face to finally see his hated stepmother bowed in deference to him. “Yes, goodnight,” he answered haughtily.<br />He was finally in control…<br />

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