The Will of a Prince and not Mine Own
As I’m writing this, I’m getting the sense of Cesare being both vulnerable and villain. He has this unnatural love for his cousin and his sister that he can’t quite reconcile, so he gives himself over to it. He’s cruel to Constanzia because he fears losing her as he’s lost Lucrezia (at the moment, that is)
When Constanzia awoke the next morning, she kept her eyes closed for a moment, hoping that when she opened them, he would be gone. He was not; he had pulled her close to him, wrapping his arms around her so that she could feel his hard body against hers. When she tried to push him away from her, he only tightened his grip. When she surrendered to him, he loosened his grip, and with one hand began to pull the remaining pins from her hair, dropping them carelessly on the floor.
“Why do you fight me, my love, you know how much I love you,” he said as he loosened her hair with his fingers, “Ah, that’s much better, hair like yours should hang loose and not be confined, my Moorish princess.”
“Do you really love me? Or am I your houris, Cesare? What about the nymph I saw you dancing with last night, you were all but undressing her with your eyes.” And she did not seem so terribly unhappy about it, she thought as she tried to push him away.
“Ah, my little Constanzia is angry with me? Perhaps I should have made sure you did not see, but who was the Genoan you were dancing with?”
“Calvino Pallavicini de Genoa, evidently the Pope intends for me to marry him. Now that uncle has married Lucrezia, it is to be my turn. He is rich, and well connected. He owns a fleet of ships, an alliance that will no doubt please the Holy Father.” If it had been meant as a taunt, she was not sure she had succeeded
. “I had not thought Father would marry you so soon,” he replied, “I have just lost Lucrezia; am I to lose you also?”
“And when did you plan to let me go, Cesare, so I can have the husband and family that I so long for?” She began to struggle against him, hoping to convince him to release her. He did not deserve to have her again, not after what he’d done the night before. “Please let me go Cesare!”
“I never thought you would ever have resisted me, and even after last night you have not learned your lesson? He pressed himself against her to show her how hard he had become, and after a few futile attempts at resistance, she surrendered to him, knowing it would do no good not to. “Pallavicini does not have you yet, and until he does, you are still mine.”
His lovemaking became hard and cruel, a reminder that she was his until he would be forced to let her go. It didn’t matter if he had Lucrezia, his new mistress did not matter, she was his and he expected her to obey him in all things. She turned her head to her pillow, and let the tears fall. It was better to yield to him, than to fight, the day must come soon when she would marry, but she could not bear too much more of this.
When he finished he held her close to him, as he always did. Exhaustion sent her to sleep and when she woke, he had left, leaving her alone in her bed. And as if to add insult to injury, a red rose lay next to her on her bed.
She rang for her maid, not stopping until she appeared.
“Yes, madam?” Carmilla had not even had a chance to change out of her night clothes, but she was devoted to her mistress.
“Have they started the fire in the kitchens? Is there hot water? I need to bathe now.” She looked up at Carmilla, her eyes desperate and pleading.
“If there is any to find, I will get it for you, mistress.” She picked up the rose still lying on the bed.
“Destroy it, Carmilla, please. I don’t want to see it.”
“Of course. And I will bring you some tea.” Gently pushing Constanzia back onto the bed she told her, “You rest, close your eyes, I will be back soon.” She ran to her room and threw on her dress, then went to the kitchens and ordered hot water for her mistress. When she returned she saw Constanzia curled up on the bed, crying.
“Oh, mistress,” she sat next to her on the bed, “How dare he do this to you?” She held Constanzia’s hand, waiting until she calmed down, then washed her eyes with cool water so they would not be red.
Soon Constanzia was sitting in the rose scented waters of her bath, sinking in so only her head could be seen. “He doesn’t matter, he doesn’t matter, he doesn’t matter,” Carmilla heard her whisper, and she urged her to sit up, and handed her the sponge and rose scented soap she loved—only to take it from her as Constanzia began to scrub herself violently.
“Did he leave any marks on me, Carmilla?”
Only on your soul, the maid thought then assured her that he had not. “He did not hit you, did he?” she asked her anxiously.
“No, he doesn’t need to; he bends me to his will and commands me with a word. I was never afraid of him, and now I don’t know what he will do. He was never cruel to me, never,” she lowered her voice to a whisper, “I need to get away from him, but will he let me?”
“If you marry, yes you can. Did you not tell me that Madame Vanozza said the Pope had a match he favored for you?”
“Yes, but will Cesare allow it to happen? Will he allow him to live? If he won’t let me go…”
“Then go to someone you know who will help you. What about Micheletto, he may be his master’s dog, but he cares for you, if only because Lord Cesare loves you. Can you ask him for help, what do you have to lose?”
“Yes, maybe, maybe Micheletto will help me. Sometimes I think he is more human than I give him credit. Maybe he might help me, but he is loyal to Cesare first.”
It seemed like it took an eternity to finish her bath and sit patiently while Carmilla braided her hair. She threw a cloak over her blue and gold dress then sought the stables where Micheletto sometimes did tasks in the morning. And the Holy Mother must have been smiling on her; for she came upon him he was alone, repairing a saddle with a broken stirrup strap.
“Micheletto,” she said tenuously, and he looked up, “Why are you not having a groom do that”
“Because, my lady, I wish to make sure it is done right. Is there something I can do for you?”
She looked at him and wondered why she was not more afraid of him. His scraggly red hair and beard looked almost orange against his pale white skin. The blue eyes always surprised her. they were almost volcanic in hue. And she knew that he was a first rate assassin, one of the best, Cesare had told her, yet he treated her with courtesy and there was no threat now in the frightening blue eyes.
“I wondered,” she started to say, then say Cesare coming towards them, dressed in ordinary clothes, not his red cardinal robes. She caught herself, “I wondered if you knew if Cesare was going to be leaving again and where he was going?” She knew that Micheletto knew she was lying, but he did not know the reason. Would he query Cesare later? With Micheletto you could never tell, and now she must wait to find out if he betrayed her.
Cesare put his arm around her, and kissed her. “I am going to Florence, I am glad you came here, I was going to find you to tell you good bye.”
“Is it Savonarola? Is Uncle sending you to see what he is up to?” She leaned into him, acting a part and hoping it was not obvious.
“Micheletto, a moment please?” Cesare looked meaningfully at him and Micheletto nodded and left. Cesare put his arms around her, “I am sorry I behaved the way I did, it was inexcusable; you must know I would never treat you like that.”
But you did, she thought, you treated me no better than a common whore, but said out loud, “I will forgive you, but it must never happen again.′
“I agree, Querida, now I must leave soon, I will tell you all that happened when I return.” He disappeared into the stable. When she could no longer see him, she lifted her skirt and ran back to her room.
I’m free, she thought, at least for a few days. I don’t know if anyone is spying on me, but I can meet with Calvino and if he proposes, I will tell him yes. I must get away from here, soon, or Cesare will have me tangled up in his web. Let everything go smoothly, God, please, I cannot bear too much more of this.