Journeys and Open Doors
Chapter 14: Journeys and Open Doors
Little Giovanni had been baptized, Lucrezia had been churched, and had moved into a luxurious suite of rooms in the Vatican, a gift of the Pope. The sisters of the Convent of San Sisto had been generously remunerated and if Lucrezia ever needed a retreat, she would find welcome there. It was hard for anyone not to love Lucrezia anyway, Cesare thought.
She was rocking her infant in the lovely cradle that Constanzia had given her, singing him softly to sleep. He’d heard that same lullaby sung by his mother to her, Juan and Gioffre and now Lucrezia was singing it to little Giovanni.
Why had the Pope named the infant “Giovanni”? Out of all the names he could have chosen, that seemed the least likely; unless he believed Giovanni Sforza was the most likely father of the child. Perhaps it had been used at a sop to encourage him to accept the offer to keep Lucrezia’s dowry and agree to the charge of impotence in order to have the marriage annulled and him safely out of the way.
Cesare smiled at the thought of the proud duke agreeing to impotence to further the annulment of his marriage. After all, he should have known better than to cross the Borgias. He had not kept his word, he had refused to put his army at the service of the Pope and his efforts to spy for the French had been so clumsy as to be laughable. Cesare would never understand why Lucrezia had advised her husband to flee, but perhaps he had not been so offensive as might have been thought. She had merely been a bride in a less than satisfactory marriage, a situation many women found themselves in. That she had been so soft hearted towards her husband, made Cesare want to laugh.
Lucrezia came to him, a finger on her lips. “He’s asleep, finally. He’s a good baby but he does not like to settle sometimes.” She took his hand and led him to her sitting room. They sat down on a small sofa, and she cuddled against him. “I am so tired,” she sighed, “And so sore-were your mistresses this tired when they had their babies?”
He wished she hadn’t mentioned this, but there was no question he loved his bastard children. A Borgia trait, no doubt, it caused him great distress that Calvino would be claiming his son, being there when he (for he had no doubt this was a boy) was born. Perhaps I should kill him, he thought, not for the first time, it is not right that another man should be able to claim my child. He put the thought of out of his mind, for now, Constanzia would not forgive him if he killed her husband. At least, not yet.
He put his arm around Lucrezia’s slender shoulders, “Yes, I am afraid so, my love, but some day you will be better, you’ll see.”
“Good lord, brother, I hope so, it is painful merely to sit; I had thought I would be better by now.”
“You will get better. Giovanni will sleep more, you will nurse less, your breasts will cease to be sore, and your little cunny will find itself longing for someone to make it feel loved.”
She laughed, “Not too soon, I hope, for I know as soon as I am strong enough, Father will start searching for a husband for me. I am not ready for that, I don’t want to be a Borgia marriage pawn, again. I want someone of my own choosing next time.”
“What makes you think you will be able to choose?” he teased, and saw the look on her face. Had he seen that look before? He was not so sure, he had never seen the look of desire on his sister’s face directed towards him. His hazel eyes stared into her blue ones, and she reached out her hand and drew his face to hers, her lips parting, ready to seek out his.
“No, sis,” he said, “We mustn’t.”
“Are you afraid, Cesare? I’ve seen the looks you give me. When Constanzia was here those looks were only for her, but she’s gone. Or has Sancia captured your heart so thoroughly that you have no room for me.”
He took her hand in his, “Never. Do I desire her, yes? But it’s only a fleeting pleasure, besides, she’s as eager for Juan as she is for me. Sometimes I think I will never understand women.”
Lucrezia brushed her cheek against his hand. “And now you know the terribly wicked desires of your sister. I don’t know what came over me, but were it not for the spector of incest hanging over our heads, you might not be safe.”
Cesare kissed her lips, his kiss hungrier than he had intended. “I used to wonder what it would be like to have both you and Constanzia in my bed, my sweet angel and my golden djinayah. Would you tempt me into yet another sin, sister?”
“Perhaps,” she smiled sweetly, “But your sweet angel is tired and she must lie down, so for now you are safe from temptation.”
There had been good weather for her journey home. Constanzia found herself relishing the long hours in the saddle, not even utilizing the litter that Calvino had provided for her in case she became tired. The sunshine and the fresh air invigorated her, and Rafaello had proved to be the most excellent traveling companion. He had spent hours drawing and sketching while in Rome, never needing to be entertained. Now he was entertaining her with stories about the mischief he and Calvino would get into when they were younger. She’d also noted the looks some of the maids would give him under their lowered lashes.
She turned around, looking again for the figure she thought she had spotted. With his red hair and pale eyes, Micheletto was hard to miss. Cesare must have sent him to act as watch dog on her journey, but it was not necessary. Cesare needed Micheletto, she didn’t, she was going to take care of this now.
“Rafaello, I am riding back towards the end of the train. I have spotted someone I wish to speak to. Don’t halt, it’s not necessary, I’ll be back shortly.”
“As you wish, my lady,” he said, clearly puzzled, but he did as she ordered. He was very good that way. She turned her horse and rode back through her escort until she found him among the soldiers.
“Micheletto, a word if you please?” she asked, and he pulled his horse up next to hers saying, “My Lady?”
“Ride with me towards the front of our train, I have something to tell you.” He nodded his head; Micheletto was uncouth, but polite. She had tried without success to hate him, and had settled on being grateful he was so loyal to Cesare.
“Micheletto, I know why you are here, and tell Cesare I thank him, but I am sending you back to Rome. I am well taken care of, and Cesare has more need of you. Please tell him that everything is all right, and I appreciate his loaning you to me, but it is not necessary. I will worry too much about him if you are not there to take care of him. And if he threatens to beat you for being derelict in your duty, remind that if he even considers it, he will face my wrath. When we stop for the noon meal, pack your saddle bags with food, and fill some skins with wine and water and then turn back towards Rome. And tell Cesare I miss him every day and send him my love.”
“He will not be happy, lady,” Micheletto warned her and she answered, “I know, I know. Who knows better than I? But I will feel better if you are by his side, I truly do not need you and his need is the greater.”
He bowed, knowing that if she was determined that this is how it should be, it would do no good to argue with her. It was too bad that his master could not marry her, especially now that the baby was on the way. Cesare and Constanzia suited each other admirably, and she would have made him a good wife, but it was not to be.
He galloped back to Rome, stopping only to rest himself and his horse. As predicted, when Cesare heard that she had sent Micheletto back to him, he lost his temper. Then he realized that Constanzia considered herself his keeper. Not only was she protective of him, she was also stronger willed than he gave her credit for. Though she might demur to him, if she had decided upon a certain path that was what she would follow and hang his anger if he did not approve. He had thought her meek and mild mannered, but he had discovered that his cousin had a will of her own.
He sat with Lucrezia in the garden, the baby laid on a blanket so he could kick and move his little arms and legs about. Lucrezia refused to have him swaddled and he had more freedom of movement than an infant of the aristocracy might.
“Do you miss her so much, Constanzia I mean. Even though she’s gone I can feel her presence here in all the places we liked to walk and sit. I am sure she is happy, but I cannot help but wish that she had not gone to Genoa.”
Cesare was silent for a moment, “I miss her, sis, dreadfully. I miss her in my bed and now another man will be raising our son, my son, as his own. This is not right.”
“You should go see her,” Lucrezia said, though it pained her to say it, “She will be glad to see you. Just think, she must be homesick, I know I would be. Though she and Calvino are very fond of each other, that is not a substitute for family.”
“But I can’t, my love, not until the baby is born and only then can I go to Genoa to offer the Pope’s congratulations. Not for anything would I have him even think this child is not his, I would not do that to Constanzia.”
Lucrezia slipped her hand into his, “I am sorry for you both, but it was for the best, I think.” She would never let him know, but she was happy to have her brother to herself. The two people she loved best were the two people who could break her heart. She knew how deeply Cesare loved their cousin, and it was impossible to not love Constanzia. Their love had made them blissfully happy, but each day brought them great risk. Her heart ached for her brother’s loss, but now it was opening a door, a far more dangerous door, for her.
A week later and nothing seemed resolved for her. Cesare came into her room, dressed in his cardinal robes. He put his arm around her waist and kissed her cheek, but he seemed distant as if his mind were not on her, or his kiss.
She put her hand on his cheek, stroking it. “What is it, brother, what’s wrong?”
“I must go to Florence, Father told me it is time that we put an end to the Preacher of Florence. I am to bring him back here so he can face the heresy charges Father will bring against him. It’s time we stopped him, Florence has become a sad shadow of what she once was.”
“Is that not a good thing, then? Has Savonarola brought nothing but turmoil? Surely this will be for the good of Florence.”
“Yes, it will, Father should have done this long ago. I will be glad to have this over and done with. There’s more important matters I would give my attention to.”
Like Sancia, guessed Lucrezia, like taking command of the army, like your child waiting to born in Genoa that you cannot claim. Sometimes, Cesare, it seems you think of everyone but me. I know you love me, but at times I feel like I am of little consequence to you.
She put her arms around his waist, and he kissed the top of her hair. “I wish this task were less urgent, I could take my time. We must find a way to discredit him, then arrest him and bring him back here. Heretics must be dealt with swiftly, otherwise their poison spreads. We never should have waited so long.”
Lucrezia slipped out of his arms. “Is that all you are thinking about?” she cried, “What about me? Aren’t I important to you?”
“Yes, but I have one sin of incest hanging over my head, I will not draw you into another. Do I think of you? Yes, all the time, but there is another, too, and she is pregnant with my child in Genoa. It might not be such a bad thing for you to marry again, sis, only this time I will help make sure he is of your liking.”
She wanted to throw something at him as he left the room. Perhaps he was right, he and Constanzia had been fortunate to not be discovered. And if marriage was the answer for her, this time she would fight for a husband of her own choosing.