I removed to my chamber, excusing myself from the preparations for my Mother’s burial. For two days I wept and slept, refusing all food and drink. The household feared that I had been afflicted with fever. I emerged from my confinement, weak and ashen but cool to the touch.
My baby brother, Aluysio, was doing well and my little sisters were eagerly assisting the new Nurse with him – especially Agneta.
I needed purpose, for when I was still, thoughts were unruly in my head–memories of Bartolomeo, at first tender then turning cruel; visions of my Mother as she lay in her childbed bleeding to death, me unable to save her. I determined to seek out the orderliness and method of my Father’s shop.
In truth I know I would not have confided in my Lord anything that had transpired with Bartolomeo. But I did yearn for some comfort from him. I wanted to return to a time before, when my Mother was living, and I was younger with my virtue intact. Perhaps I believed I would find that time in my Father’s fabric shop? Thinking I would pick up where I had left off, assisting my Father in reconciling his accounts as I had done as a girl before leaving for the Abbey. My mind always enjoyed the game of numbers and computations. I thought I might lose myself in them for a while.
So intentioned, I went to the shop and the clerk at the counter advised me that my Father was beyond in his private office. I walked down the narrow hall that led to my Father’s private cell and I entered as I have always done–unannounced. Upon opening the door I was shocked to find my Father, widowed not three days hence, in a wanton embrace, a maid in his arms laying upon his desk, his face buried in her bosom – her head leaning back in an expression of not pleasure so much as victory. I quickly and quietly closed the door before I was noticed! I remained there, still, facing the door, my heart beating in my ears. I knew not what to do? I reasoned that if I fled, the clerk would advise my father that I had been come visit him and he might suspect what I had seen. I could not bear that confrontation. Instead, I paused and gathered my wits. I made a great deal of noise approaching the door again and knocking upon it for entry, allowing them time to regain some sense of decorum. My father, red cheeked and obviously flustered, invited me into his office. He kissed me on my forehead, bade me he was happy my health was so improved. He introduced me to the young woman, Laura. (I swear to you, Maria Grazia, she cannot be a day older than I!) He explained that she was a clerk in his shop and they were analyzing an invoice as they feared the wrong fabric bolts had been delivered. Leaving them to their “labors” I quickly made my excuses and left.
I was in no hurry to return home so I walked along the city wall, gazing out onto the countryside, seeing the fields turning green in warm spring. I saw birds rising from the trees and soaring in the wide blue sky; I could hear the buzz of the bees. I saw the bright green leaves on the trees that swayed in the gentle breeze. All seemed right with the world on this glorious spring day but for the fact that my mother was dead, already replaced by one my age, and I was despoiled by one who was betrothed to another.
Maria Grazia, what am I to do? I am lost!
My mother’s burial took place on the fourth day. Father walked ahead, leading the procession behind her bier. I followed with my sisters. I held Aluysio in my arms and Beatrisia’s hand nestled in the crook of my right arm. Agneta carried Diana. My mother’s bier was covered in spring flowers, always her favorite! My sisters and I had made her a bouquet of wild flowers and i placed it in her hands along with her rosary. She was shrouded in the lightest cloth of silver, the finest fabric in my Father’s shop–worth a fortune but an extravagance she rightly deserved, having lived her life as a dutiful wife to him and mother to us.
She was laid in the Interminelli crypt with her husband’s antecedents. We entered the crypt’s darkness, the air was cold and stale. The priests pacing around her bier, showered her with holy water and the smoke of Frankincense. Prayers for her soul’s safe delivery unto our Savior were said and we bowed our heads in pious devotion. I peeked to see her face through the fine cloth, sunken and hollow – the smell of death overwhelmed me, my head began to spin and a hum was in my ears, that only I heard. I feared I would be sick, luckily Aluysio began to cry and I exited the crypt to calm him.
The solemnity was over before I had the chance to return. The great doors were sealed to lock my dear Mother away for eternity. My Father, laying his hand on the closed crypt door, paused for a moment, then turned to us, his daughters, and bade us to retire home. He turned away from us and walked towards his shop.
Now that the interment is completed and my baby brother Aluysio is settled with a Nurse, I await word from my Father as to his wishes for me. I know not if I am to return to the Abbey or stay here to govern the household for him? He has not spoken to me of “Laura” since my meeting her in the shop. He takes his meals on a tray in his library now. My sisters and I are dining in the great hall by ourselves. It feels so queer to have neither Father nor Mother at the head of the table.
And so you have it, my dearest sister, I am wretched and discarded. I pray that you are generous in your estimation of me and my state, for I know that it is appalling. Do you still consider me your friend? Pray for me, dear sister. Send words of wisdom, or if you have none, sustenance.
Until we next meet, may the Lord keep your soul in his sight and your person safe.
I await your word.
Villa Interminelli, Lucca