An Unholy Trinity
Chapter 3: An Unholy Trinity
When she woke, she reached for but found his side of the bed empty. Her eyes, used to the darkness, looked around the room and watched him as he finished dressing.
“Cesare?” she asked softly, and he came over and sat on the bed.
“Go back to sleep, little deer, I have to leave before someone sees.” He pulled her head to his shoulder, then kissed her.
“Cesare, I had something come to me in the night. We can’t do this, the punishment will be too awful if we’re caught. We’re committing incest, Uncle would never forgive us, or give us a dispensation.”
“He’s given dispensations for incest marriages, but you’re right, we must be careful. And we cannot afford a child for now, but trust me, I will find a way. I want you to have children, some day.”
“Cesare, what if he finds someone for me to marry? He’s looking for someone for Lucrezia, what if he offers me to a cast off as a consolation prize? I don’t want to be sent away from here, or marry.”
“You think too much, you may have more time than it seems. He will concentrate on Lucrezia and obtaining a dowry for her. If he can marry off one of my brothers…”
“Which I am sure Juan will not deign to do, unless she is no less than royalty,” he could barely see her smile in the dark.
“You still don’t like him. Sometimes, I don’t like him much myself. If Father can marry off either of my brothers, that will bring badly needed funds to the Treasury. And he’ll need to come up with money for a dowry for you, your father evidently can’t afford very much.”
“So if he tries to marry me, remind him of that. And he can’t send Lucrezia away, I cannot do without either of you. I love her as much as you do, Cesare, and if she’s sent away I will miss her too much.”
“As will I.” How could he explain the strange bond that existed between the three of them? Lucrezia was the love of his life, but he remembered how he had felt when his new cousin was placed in his arms. She had seemed, as had Lucrezia did later, to be perfection itself, the Holy Infant come to earth in the form of the little mewing bundle he held. Then Lucrezia had come and a triumvirate had been formed.
He walked quietly down the hall, hoping he would not be met by a servant or family member. He had almost reached his room when he heard a familiar voice call to him.
“Cesare!” Lucrezia stood there, looking at him, “What are you doing…”
“Shhh,” he swept her up and carried her to her room, “What are you doing up?”
“I just woke and came to find you. What are you doing? Why were you coming out of Constanzia’s room at this hour?”
He put his hand on her mouth, “Be quiet, sister, you must let no one know what you saw.”
“Are you and Constanzia lovers?” her face was eager and full of curiosity.
“If I tell you, you promise to tell no one. Not our Father, our Mother, or our brothers. No one must know, we would be severely punished if anyone found out.”
“So you are! I promise, but I do not understand why I cannot tell…”
“No, you must not tell anyone, do you promise me? This is very important, Lucrezia, a lot rides on your silence.”
She looked puzzled, but said, “I will not tell anyone. I do not want you to get in trouble on my account. And I’m glad, I’m happy for you both. Do you love her?”
“Almost as much as I love you. This is our secret now, yes?”
She hugged him, “Of course, always.” He kissed her and went to his room, hoping that all would be well. Lucrezia had no guile, she was innocence personified. She had yet to learn about keeping secrets, and lies. He wanted to tell her, now he had shared this with her maybe all would be well. But she must remember to hold her tongue.
At breakfast Lucrezia watched them steal glances at each other. When Cesare caught Constanzia’s eyes and smiled, she blushed a pretty and pink and looked down.
“So that’s what it’s like,” thought Lucrezia, “To be in love. Stolen looks and late nights in rooms where you don’t belong—you didn’t think I knew about that, did you Cesare? And how sweet and pretty my cousin looks this morning. Some day that is how I want to look, blushes, secret smiles and all.”
After breakfast Cesare was off to the Vatican, and Lucrezia and Constanzia were left with time on their hands. Constanzia begged permission to go to the market, she could hardly stand to remain captive in the room. Permission was granted, Lucrezia went with her, accompanied by two servants.
Constanzia did not remain at one booth long, but kept glancing over her shoulder as they went from merchant to merchant. Even the lacy white shawl she held in her hands could not hold her interest. Sighing she handed it back to the proprietor, and took Lucrezia by the hand and hurried out of the market.
“Lucrezia, we are being followed. See that man, the ragged looking one with the red hair and evil looking eye? He’s been following us since we came here. I was not sure at first, but every move we make, he follows us.
“I see no such man—are you sure? Maybe you didn’t get enough sleep last night and it has caused you to imagine things…”
Constanzia took her arm, and ducked with her into a corner. “Do you know what you are saying? Please don’t say such things. Why would you say that?”
“Why? It was innocent, but I know dearest cousin, and I want you to know I am happy for you both. He loves you, you know.” Lucrezia kissed her, and saw tears in her eyes, “Please, don’t cry cousin, I didn’t want to make you cry. Let’s go back and buy that shawl you covet. You need fresh air, that’s all.” She paused for a moment, “But you might ask my brother if he has given you a watch dog. It’s only fair that you know.”
Midnight, the witching hour. She sat and brushed her long hair, singing a song in Turkish her mother had taught her, about a maiden who sat by a well, waiting for her lover and conjured a djinn instead.
Leave your door unlocked, he’d instructed, so we disturb no one by knocking. She looked at the little clock on her dresser, wondering if he would come.
And the djinn she conjured suddenly stood behind her, and took the brush from her hands. “Let me,” he said, and begin to brush her hair in the same manner he might groom his horse.
She closed her eyes, the strokes of the brush feeling like a caress. Suddenly she remembered what she would ask him and turned around to face him. “Are you having me followed, Cesare?”
“Why do you say that?” His fingers started to fiddle with the ribbons of her night dress, freeing first one shoulder, then the other.
“I saw him, a ragged looking man with a dangerous look in his eyes. If I met him in an alleyway I would run as fast as I can. He scares me.”
“Don’t be alarmed by him, he is loyal to me, very loyal, I place absolute trust in him. He would die for me or any member of my family if I asked him to. His name is Micheletto.”
“You can trust me, or have you forgotten? How can you trust one so evil looking?”
“It is not how he looks, little love, it is his allegiance that counts. I am looking out for you, that is all.” He slipped her night dress off her shoulders, “Now, I do not wish to discuss this any further, I have a better way to spend the time, and I must be gone before dawn.”
The next day Cesare found himself invested as Cardinal, though he neither willed nor wanted it. I will escape this, he thought, even if I have to take Lucrezia and Constanzia and disappear. Maybe we can go to Istanbul, I can pass as a Circassian and Constanzia will teach me Turkish. As if it were possible, he told himself sadly.
The Pope had assigned Cardinal Sforza as Constanzia’s confessor. As she went into the confessional and sat down, she hoped that she would not reveal herself. She knew that Sforza had a lover, and sometimes liked to frequent the brothels. And she could come up with enough to confess—she had been disobedient to her father’s will, she had lied, she had taken a lover while she was in Spain. Not being particularly pious, though devout enough, she had omitted certain things during her last confession in Spain. She liked Sforza well enough, but had learned discretion could be preferable to honesty.
There was a party going on to celebrate the new cardinals, but Cesare was absent. She found him, and he took her hands and kissed them. “I may not see you tonight, my love, but I may not be the best company.”
“I would regret it if I could not lift your spirits,” she said. She was going to lay her cheek on his hands, but she looked up and saw the strange man looking at her. She held his eyes, not lowering them in a maidenly fashion. They stared at each other, then he went back to helping Cesare dress.
She kissed Cesare, then said, “I must go, they will miss me. I must learn to be friendly to Cardinal Sforza. And Juan is making an effort to be pleasant, for once, so I must take advantage of it. Come to me tonight if you can.” She slipped from the room, giving Micheletto one last dirty look.
Cesare laughed. “I must teach you better manners, you must not know how to treat a lady. All Borgia women can be harridans, it’s the Spanish temper.”
“She did not expect to see me, my lord, and so she was frightened. Until she becomes more accustomed to me, I will exercise more caution. I think the ways of Rome are new to her, and it might be a hard adjustment. Do not worry, I will watch over her like an angel.”
Cesare clapped a hand on his shoulder, and that was all the response he needed.