Tuesday 18 April, 1286

Carissima Maria Grazia,

A son!

I have a son, dear sister! His name is Teoboldo and he has taken hold of my heart. He has split it open and the breath of heaven has rushed in. I am forever changed. My son has made me a man.

My beloved Vittoria labored for two endless days, and then, when Teo was finally delivered he was the color of a robin’s egg. I feared a wrathful God had given hope only to snatch it away and I was to lose both my heart and soul in one swath. Then came Teo’s cry. A more beautiful sound I have never heard. It was as if he was calling out, “I am here! I am here!” All the angels in heaven could not usher forth a sweeter chorus. My very soul trembled with joy. As Teo took his first breath, so did I. I have not existed until this moment. I am finally alive. Every breath I take from now until the grave will merely be an echo of his own. My son has given me life.

A son! I cannot stop repeating the glorious word. You know better than anyone that I have dismissed as folly the belief in God and heaven and hell. I know better now, for I have borne witness to them all. I watched powerlessly as my wife and son began to slip from this life. It was then that I understood that hell is real. Then, as if by magic, they returned – with roses in their cheeks! Only a merciful God in heaven could have performed such a miracle – for a miracle it was. I can hear you laughing, Maria Grazia, for you have always known that such things are real. I now realize they are the very essence of truth. Laugh, dearest, for I was a fool.

Vittoria remains weak, but she is in joyous spirits. Yours was the name she called for most in her suffering and again now as she rests contentedly with our son safely in her arms. That is why it pains me so deeply to tell you that Father will not send for you. He insists that you are at a critical time in your studies. I know the truth, however. Father has paid the Abbess a goodly sum for your education and he will not send for you until he is satisfied that he has gotten more from the arrangement than the Abbey and, most importantly, when he has found a suitable suitor for you. He is, as always, a businessman before anything else. I pray that Father will relent. Until then I must find solace in seeing you in Teo’s eyes, for they sparkle as yours do, and the same dimple appears in his cheek when he smiles.

One of Vittoria’s faithful maids held Teo as his soul was cleansed in baptism, but she is not his godmother. I pray, carissima Maria Grazia, that you will agree to be his Madrina and set my soul at ease. I trust no one more than you and there is no greater beacon for my son to follow down the path of virtue. Please say yes and I will know that whatever happens, Teo will be safe and loved forever.

I have ordered my man, Lorenzo, to await your reply. I have ordered my man, Lorenzo, to await your reply. Please implore the good Suore to give him sustenance and a place to rest until the morrow. Then, I hope, he will bring me the words I long to hear … Yes, dear brother, a million times yes.

With all my heart —