April, 1286
Cara Maria Grazia,

I miss you, dear friend. You are always in my thoughts. Especially at first light when, although I need not arise for Prime, my body still rouses at the sacred hour and, lying in my warm bed, I envision you stirring in our shared cell. I imagine that I see you rise to find your shoes, wrapping your cold shoulders against the morning chill with your woolen shawl as you look for your robe and don it. The cold morning air stings your face once you exit our chamber, and you shuffle down the stone passage, rubbing the sleep from your eyes as you join the sisters in the chapel–each of you reverently gazing down at your breviary, silent and holy. I am ashamed to say that although I wake at the appointed hour and I envision you all in your sacred service, I do not rise from my cozy bed to bend the knee at that hour. Instead I turn over and return to glorious slumber within my down comforter! I am scandalous, I know! But there you have it. I do not lie–although I do lie abed! Ha! I have made a clever joke. Are you laughing? (Just a little?)

Enough of my bragging. I write you not to taunt you with the joys of the world outside the Abbey, but to recount all that has transpired since last my last letter. I arrived back home to Lucca more than a fortnight ago after a voyage that took twice as long as was promised by the carriage driver. I shan’t recount the horrors of the road in detail, but share with you only that I had to sleep with a fellow traveller for two nights in Boretto as our carriage lost a wheel in a ditch, and a new one had to be fashioned. Oh, the horror of sleeping in a bed with a complete stranger! She was a nice enough woman, en route to Genoa to live with her sister, but she snored and was large and took all the bed! (It made me miss you all the more, as you do not snore–although you do take all the coverlets if I am not vigilant!) But enough of my travails. It is done.

I am in Lucca with my family. My mother is quite close to her time. My new baby sister is not yet a year, and Mother is already due to bear another! My Lady mother looks very old to me now, Maria Grazia. I do not know if she has always been thus, or if she has aged with these two pregnancies so closely met. I worry for her, her eyes seem clouded and puffy, she does not have the acuity I remember. I am sure this is why my father sent for me. I think he too worries about her state–although he has not disclosed as much to me. I know not how long it will be before the babe is born, and I know not when I will be made to return to the Abbey. In an odd way I miss our prison of God. I think i really only miss you, and the Soura Aede. I certainly don’t miss the food (or lack thereof) nor do I miss the constant prayers and silence. I absolutely don’t miss wearing a wimple! I revel in the feeling of my hair loose upon my shoulders. My sister’s braid it for me daily in such frivolous fashions! I wish you could see the product of their cunning fingers!

My home is filled with children and it is loud! Oh, I love the noise! It is such a contrast to the imposed silence of the Abbey, but my dear mother is quite sensitive to their clamor now that her hour approaches. I take my sisters on walks along the walls of Lucca to tire them in hopes that they will be more obedient at home. But we are disobedient children! I don’t know what ill humour we have received from our Lord father and Lady mother, but we are all strong willed and loud.

My father is very distracted at present. I do not see within him any of the tenderness toward my mother that I have in the past. I don’t quite know what he is up to, but something is not right, his actions have a bad smell about them, like cheese that has been in the cellar overlong. Like a determined mouse I’ll nose it out. It makes me feel queer to think of it.

One last morsel before I end! We are to host the young Prince della Scala! He will to Lucca shortly to take of the medicinal waters that flow underground in this area. He suffers from ill humours and our waters will aid him in regaining his fortitude as they have done for so many in the past. Father is so proud to be host to one so well born, but Mother, who is about to begin her lying in, is beside herself. I can understand the timing is not good for her account. My parents have advised me that I must play hostess to the Lord–taking him about our city to see the sights and assuring he makes his visits to receive the waters at the thermal springs, Bagno a Corsena. My father’s man Silvestri will accompany us while we are together, of course. I don’t know what to imagine I will have to say to a Lord of Verona! Know you Bartolomeo della Scala? I worry that he is sickly and his eyes leak. Oh, what a bore! This is my penance for not awaking and performing my sacred duties during the offices of prayer!

I pray that this letter finds you well, my dearest friend. Keep warm, and write me.

Though parted, you are always in my thoughts,


Villa Interminelli, Lucca

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