The Half Pendant
Lucia arrived home with the coins and pouch from cleaning Leonardo da Vinci’s rooms at the castle. She hated working only to have her husband take everything she earned or stole, not that she wanted to steal in the first place. Cleaning houses seven days a week was getting to her, not to mention keeping house for Henricus.
It didn’t matter what she did to try and please him nothing worked, she still ended up with more bloody noses and black eyes than she had ever had in her life. Lucia kept her house clean and tidy, made his dinner when he was home and washed his clothing not daring to go to bed until he had drunk himself into a stupor and only then would she sleep on a blanket beside the bed. The thought of him touching her made her sick, hating that she was stuck in this life with him.
Since her only son Giano had joined the army there was only Lucia and her husband, unfortunately his drinking had gotten so much worse along with the demands for her to steal.
Lucia hated to steal but it was better than being his punching bag that most often than not, left her broken, aching and sore for days. Lucia knew that if she was caught, she would be executed. Sometimes she almost wished it, being executed would be a reprieve from the punishment Henricus lambasted on her.
“Lucia, where are you?” There is no mistaking his voice reverberating through the house, she froze knowing that he was drunk again.
“I am here Henricus.” She swallowed the lumpn in her throat.
“What have you brought me today?” He snatched the things from her hands taking the coins for cleaning Leonardo da Vinci’s rooms and a pouch with a necklace in it.
“Is this all you have? You are getting lazy Lucia, you have to do better.” He drawled in his drunkenness. Opening the pouch and emptying the contents in his hand, he scowled. “What is this supposed to be? It’s only half a necklace.”
“I didn’t look at it before I took it. It is silver Henricus surely it is worth something even if it is melted down.” He backhanded her hard across the mouth splitting her lip, sending her to the floor.
“Get your lazy arse out there and get more or I will sell you to Sirus de Rubeis for his whorehouse, you lazy good for nothing.” He yelled before giving her a hard-swift kick to her stomach.
Henricus left the house and his wife groaning lying on the floor in a pool of blood. He mumbled to himself that he should just give her to Rubeis and be done with her. Making his way down the street the only thing he wanted was a drink and a night with his favourite belle Franchesca.
Stopping at the tavern he downed two shots then headed on over to the Merry Widows house. A whorehouse considered to be the best in town. Also, the place that Franchesca lived and worked.
As usual Franchesca was waiting for him, she’s always waiting for him. Her face lights up when he gives her the pouch, he thought he noticed a flicker of disappointment in her eyes.
“Do you not like it my countess?” He asks eyeing her suspiciously.
She smiles at him. “Of course, my handsome prince I love it.”
Much later when Henricus is too drunk to wake up or move, Franchesca called down for the bouncers to come up and take care of him. She had had enough of this Henricus, it was time to end their relationship.
When they picked him up by his arms and legs Franchesca leaned over to one of them and said. “I don’t want him to come back again, will you take care of it for me Antonius. He winked at her, he had done this numerous times, for his beloved Franchesca and he would do it as often as she needed him. He would do anything for this woman, no matter what.
“No worries sweetheart I can take care of that for you, but what will you give me in return?” A salacious look crossed his face. He knew what she would do but he always like to ask, to play this game with her.
Franchesca gave him a sensational look and fluttered her lashes. “Come back later and let me take care of you. You know I always make you feel good.” A wide grin flashed across his face, oh he knew she would.
“Good riddance.” She says to the last of Henricus as they shuffle out carrying him between them.
She sat on her bed waiting for Antonius to come back to tell her that Henricus had been dealt with, so she could deal with him. For her, it was worth it to spend a small amount of time with Antonius, he always found an answer to her problems, and his body wasn’t too bad.
Picking up the pendant that Henricus had given her, mumbled to herself that she deserved better than an ugly half a pendant, it didn’t even have a design that made sense. Franchesca couldn’t understand why someone would make something like this.
Didn’t she deserve the best jewels, furs and riches. The answer was to pick better clientele, ones that had money and not half scums such as Henricus and the rest that she had had to deal with in the past year. She deserved to live in a fine house, travel the world and be treated like a queen.
That was were Antonius was such a help, when she became bored with them or they gave her rubbish like this damned half pendant. He would take care of them for her.
Franchesca sat on her bed for hours, Antonius should have returned by now. Chewing on one of her finger nails worried that something had gone wrong. Questions filled her mind. What if they had been caught, or Henricus had awoken and gotten free, before they could do the deed?
A knock came at the door, Franchesca rushed to open it thinking Antonius had returned and all was well.
Opening the door not to find Antonius but Fiora, a barmaid from the Coda di Cani tavern two doors down. The lass curtsied, as if Franchesca was a dame of some such thing. Franchesca half smiled at the girl, of course she should be treated as a dame, or even a princess, really, she deserved at least that much.
“Sorry to interrupt my lady but a man at the tavern sent me to ask you if you would be interested in spending the night with him at his home.”
“Who is this man and why could he not come himself?”
“I’m not sure my lady, but he seems very rich and he is offering two hundred soldi for your company just for the night.”
“Two hundred soldi?” Franchesca’s eyes lit up, that’s more than she made in three months. “Are you sure he asked for me?”
“Yes, my lady quite sure.” Franchesca looked down to see she was still holding the ugly pendant. With what she had saved already plus this two hundred she had enough to leave this miserable city and never come back. Her mind buzzed with a plan, go to France and catch the king’s eye and be set to sit in the royal court, being where she should be.
“Here you may have this.” She said handing the pendant to the girl.
“Thank you, my lady that is…very generous of you. When you come to the tavern I will be there and point the gentleman out for you.”
“You may go now.” Franchesca said curtly, waving her hand in the air as if she was already in court dismissing her staff.
Fiora thanked Franchesca and hurried off down the hall putting the pendant in her pocket.
Franchesca spent time washing and dressing, when she’s happy with the way she looked, slipped on her cape and hood and headed to the tavern. Entering the tavern, it was full mostly of drunks, some playing cards at a table at the other end of the room.
Catching Fiora’s attention, the barmaid nodded her in the direction of a table on the far right towards the back where a lone man was sitting.
Making her way to the table to stand waiting to be noticed, the stranger continued to drink his beverage. Franchesca coughed. “I believe you have…requested my company for the evening?”
The man although covered by a cape nodded and pointed to a seat across the table from him. Franchesca sat in the most ladylike position she could.
“I will give you two hundred soldi for your company for the night at my house. Does that suit you, senora?”
“That sounds favorable if I do say. Though I’m not into anything…strange or insidious.” Barely able to see his face under the hood Franchesca determined his clothes to be that of someone with money and influence.
“I would not dream of such things senora, if you would follow me, I have a carriage waiting beside the tavern.” Franchesca noticed he hadn’t finished his drink, seeming to be in a hurry. Even though it gave her a small thrill that he was anxious to have her in private, it was all about the money he was paying, it was something she had been waiting for, a way out of the city.