To Love a Borgia

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Fearing the Known and Unknown

Chapter 12: Fearing the Known and Unknown


Lucrezia’s apartments at the convent of San Sisto were spacious, and she had brought in the comforts she felt she was entitled to. Among these were a bed, and furnishings, along with three maids and two manservants, was a cook the Pope had thoughtfully provided. If they were not the equal of her rooms in the Vatican, it was only because there would be no time to paint frescoes on the walls, Constanzia teased.

“Are you sure this is what you want?” Constanzia asked, but she didn’t really need an answer. Lucrezia had grown up since her wedding, and was discovering her own power. She was learning to make shrewd decisions on her own, and if Constanzia wished that she had preserved a little more of her innocence, she was pleased to see the self-assured young woman Lucrezia was growing into.

“Yes, if you can believe it. I feel quite safe here. Father told me that he is going to seek an annulment, and since that can only be non-consummation of the marriage, he must be quite sure that he can attain it. Giovanni will get to keep my dowry, imagine, thirty one thousand ducats, the largest ever; that should make it easier for him to swallow his pride and debase himself. He’ll marry again, someone he likes better, I’m sure.”

“But you won’t be at my wedding. I’ll bring Calvino to meet you, but it won’t be the same. You’ll like him, I promise, and I’m sure he’ll like you, for my sake if nothing else. I am hoping he will let me come to Rome four your lying in, I can’t imagine not being here.”

Lucrezia took her hand, “If he is as kind as you say he is, I’m sure you will. You may even be expecting your own child by then.”

“I may already be.” She left her words hanging. If Lucrezia had suspected she was still Cesare’s lover, now she knew for sure.

Lucrezia squeezed the hand she held, “If it is his my dearest,” both knew whom she meant, “Calvino most likely won’t know,” she said, reading Constanzia’s mind, “I promise. If it’s a boy, he’ll be too pleased with the birth of a son to pay attention, and if it’s a girl, if he has any doubts he’ll be inclined to dismiss them. Men see what they want to see.”

“I’ve told him if I ever have a girl, I’m naming her ‘Lucrezia the Younger’.” Cesare did not yet know that she might be pregnant. Would he want to claim the child as his own? How many children did he have, anyway? One thing that was common among the Borgia’s, they loved their children.

“And at least one of mine will be ‘Constanzia’. I’ve always had a love for my brother that seems to surpass just sisterly love. As long as you’ve been around, it’s always been a seemly love, but now?” Lucrezia leaned closer to Constanzia, “You’re the only person that I know I can admit this to. While I was young, he restrained himself, now things are changing fast. I’ve seen how he is with you, how much he loves you, how he can’t bear to let you go, but now you can get away. Tell me cousin, did he make you happy?”

“Yes, at times he did, but that doesn’t mean I did not want him to let me go. Be careful, cousin, he might love you with all his heart, but sometimes his love is cruel. If you want my advice on the matter, I would tell you, don’t do it, don’t let him have you. But, if he wants you, if he truly wants you, you will find him hard to resist—I did anyway. You’re safe while you’re with child, and until you have been churched. After that, it will be up to you.”

She stood up and kissed Lucrezia on the lips. “I know you are stronger than me, if you tell him “no” he will give in to your wishes, if not, I know you can manage him. I’m done, I have a husband that I love, Cesare is my past, Calvino my future.”

It was not the usual custom for the bridegroom to arrive so early before the wedding, but Constanzia had pleaded, and the Pope had granted permission. She and Calvino, always chaperoned, enjoyed riding, boating on the Tiber, hunting, and long walks together. Even after his affectionate proposal he had seemed something of a stranger, but they were growing an easy familiarity with each other that put them at ease.

Calvino was her shield against Cesare, with him near she felt protected. The men would go hunting together, and each time they left, she prayed that no harm had been done to Calvino or his brother. When they returned, she would look for Rafaello and Calvino first, then when she saw them, she would paste a false smile on her face and simply ask if the hunting had been good.

The morning of her wedding, she woke feeling slightly sick, but gave it no thought. She bathed in scented waters, then Vanozza and La Bella came and oversaw her dressing. Her gown of cloth of gold felt heavy, but bearable, her hair was braided and tiny white flowers woven into the dark coils, then the sheer silk veil was pinned to her head. When she saw the finished product, with the light touches of rouge and her kohl rimmed eyes, she felt like she was staring at a stranger.

Cesare came and took her arm, and the procession formed behind her. She had not wanted so elaborate a wedding, but now she did not regret it. She felt like a princess as Cesare escorted her to the altar, where Calvino and his brother, resplendent in white and gold brocade, awaited her.

As they exchanged vows, it seemed like a dream. She barely heard the words Ascanio spoke as he conducted the ceremony, and it seemed like it was over in a minute. Then followed the banqueting, and the music, and the dancing, and she became lost in the celebration, enjoying herself, much to her surprise.

At last she was lead to the bridal chambers. Her maids let her hair down, and dressed her in a sheer silk nightgown. Calvino came in, dressed for bed, and dismissing the servants and bidding them goodnight, slid into the bed next to her.

“At last,” she told him, “I feel like have waited forever for you,” and he agreed. She smiled as he slipped the gown off her shoulders, listened to him whisper, “Oh, my darling, you are more beautiful than I imagined!”

“Then come here and tell me just how beautiful you think I am.” She smiled and held out her bare arms. He slipped his nightgown over his head, and came to her.

“I will show you,” he smiled and kissed her more deeply than he had before. His mouth found her breasts and her belly, and he smiled at her for just a moment before he plunged himself into her. It was close to dawn before they went to sleep, each satisfied that they were happy with the partner they had chosen. They made love again when they woke, even though they were tired, they could not seem to get enough of each other.

She lay, entwined in his arms, then the twinges of nausea came again. Not bad, she had but she knew the signs of morning sickness with her first. It was not so bad, as it had not been so bad before. She was not so far along that Calvino would not know this baby was not his. I should be ashamed of myself, she thought, but what I am is grateful, and said a prayer to the Holy Mother.

And Calvino must not know the truth, she told herself. He had freed her from Cesare, and from now on she would concentrate on being a good wife.

Carmilla had prepared her bath, and strewn it with rose petals. She pinned up Constanzia’s hair, then retreated, leaving her and Calvino to themselves. Now the initial awkwardness was past, and they gave each other looks of knowing, they needed no words, communicating only in smiles.

An elaborate wedding breakfast had been prepared, mostly family, but a few of the nobility. Toasts were drunk, sly jokes were made about the beauty of the bride and the happiness of the marriage bed.

When Cesare stood up and toasted, “To my beloved cousin and her new husband,” she held her breath, fearful of what more he might say. When he concluded only with the union of the houses and the happiness of the new couple, she breathed a sigh of relief. Thank goodness he did not know she suspected she was pregnant. His toast had just been another way of letting her know he had no intention of allowing her to escape him. But his time was over, whether he was willing to admit it or not. Soon she would depart for Genoa with Calvino, far enough from Rome that Cesare could not touch her.

It had been decided that the wedding party and guests would hunt that afternoon. She had not yet decided on which horse she would ride. If she rode her Arabian, she would be able to keep up with the others on their hunters, but she Calvino had gifted her with a hunter that she had not yet had a chance to ride. Two beautiful, fast horses—and such a pleasurable decision to be made.

She was about to ask for the hunter to be brought out so she could inspect it when someone placed a hand over her mouth and dragged her to the tack room. Holding onto her with one hand, Cesare shut the door with the other.

“Now, madam, do we talk? Or are you going to scream if I remove my hand.” I almost wish you would, he thought, but did not say it. She nodded, and he slowly removed his hand from her mouth. He caressed her throat and slid his hand down her breasts.

“No,” she said, and pulled away, “No more, not now, not ever again. What do you want from me, Cesare?”

“Are you with child?” he asked bluntly, and she nodded her head. “Is it mine?” she paused for a moment, nodded again. “Querida,” he said and reached for her, but she would not let him touch her.

“I said no, I mean no. I will have to lie to my husband, lie to my child, my priest, my confessor because this is a thing no one must ever know. I would get rid of it, but I do not want to have that on my conscience. This pregnancy is so new that it will be easy to convince him it is his. I won’t be your houris again, Cesare, not ever. We are through.”

“Are you sure?” he asked and took her into his arms so quickly and kissed her that she had no chance to resist. For a moment, just a brief moment, she melted and gave into him, then pushed him away.

“Don’t ever do that again,” she warned and slapped his face, then left the tack room, and him, behind.

He watched, as smile on his face, as she hurried away. “Farewell sweet cousin,” he said softly, “I will be seeing you again, you can count on it.”

She was trying not to cry, but there were tears forming in her eyes, anyway, blinding her. So oblivious was she to the things around her that she did not notice when she ran into her husband, unaware it was him.

“Querida,” he said tenderly, she wished he would not use Cesare’s endearment for her, but she would not tell him that, “You are crying, whatever is wrong? Tell me and I will make it right if I can.”

“Oh, Calvino, I am so sorry. I became overwhelmed with emotions.” She lay her cheek against his velvet covered chest, “Things have happened so quickly in the past few years, or so it seems. First I am sent away to Toledo to be married, then my husband dies and I must return back home. My parents decided to send me to Rome to help my melancholy, and now I will be leaving Rome for Genoa.” She looked up at him, “Please believe me, I leave Rome gladly, for I leave with the best of husbands. It’s just that…it is so much change in so short a time. And I am leaving my pregnant cousin behind and that is hard, too.”

He held her close, stroking her hair, “This is not what you expected for your life, is it? I was born to it, but you are the daughter of a simple Valencian nobleman who suddenly found herself the niece of the pope and became an unknowing pawn in the marriage game. I understand, my dear girl, I truly do. I promise you that you will find many diversions in Genoa, and I promise to teach you about my world, so unlike the one you find yourself in.” He leaned down and kissed her. “I will send you to your cousin when she begins her lying in, do not fear. I know of the closeness of sisters and cousins, believe me.”

They walked, arm in arm, back to the palace, oblivious to the fact that Cesare and Micheletto followed. “I must be careful,” Cesare said to his manservant, “If something happens to him, she will suspect and not forgive me, so his welfare must become important to us. Unfortunately, I do not think he will outlive his usefulness as Sforza did. I cannot believe there is no way at the present to get rid of him, but maybe in time?” He shook his head, and the two disappeared into the shadows.

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