two falcons with gold rings

14. I Await Your Word — Caterina, Part II

Please note this letter describes events that may not be suitable for readers under the age of 16.

. . . And so it came to pass, that on the day before Bartolomeo’s departure, my mother began her labor and I was called away from my Lord della Scala into her chamber. I emerged the next morning, bereft of my mother and enwrapped in such sorrow. I know not if I grieved more for my mother’s passing or Bartolomeo’s departure. Silly girl that I was, inconstant, fickle child! But there it is Maria Grazia, I can be honest with you and proclaim it—I was desperate that morning to see Bartolomeo. I feared he had already left for Verona and that I might never see him again, and if so, we would not have an opportunity to exchange any promises or for me to discern what his intentions were.

I emerged from my mother’s chamber of death and ran up the stairs to his suite. I was rewarded with the sight of him, preparing to depart. I left all proprietary behind and sped into his arms. He already knew of my mother’s passing and appeared prepared to offer me comfort. He held out his arms and enrapt me fully.

I had never been held so closely by any man, other than my father. Immediately I was aware of his amber scent, and felt the strength of his arms as he held me tight against his own body. My arms wrapped around him just as tightly—as if I might be ripped away. We stood thusly for awhile, I did not want to let go, nor did he. My heart beat so fiercely in the chamber of my chest that I feared it might burst out, like a captive escaping its prison. I wanted nothing more than to be in his arms, hearing the beat of his heart, feeling the warmth of his body. I dared not yearn for more, for I knew it was wanton and unseemly given my recent loss. But when I next felt his lips on my forehead kissing me reverently, I could do naught but turn my face up to him and his awaiting hungry mouth. At the touch of his soft, warm lips I felt a surge within me and I could not stop myself from eagerly meeting his lips with mine own. I fear a whimper of joy escaped from me at that moment and in the next I felt his tongue in my mouth—without knowing what to do or why to do it, I felt mine own venture into his mouth. I wanted to taste him and feel his hands on my body and he did comply, the strong hands venturing from my hair to my waist and then toward my bodice.

At this point I remembered myself and looked about the chamber, I was relieved to see that we were alone, his man Grumio had tactfully departed and closed the door. I knew not where my father was nor any of the servants but I did not care, I did not stop.

Nor did Bartolomeo.

He put his lips upon my neck and the sensation that rippled across my skin, bringing gooseflesh was indescribable. Oh Maria Grazia for one glorious moment I was lost in time, outside of time! I thought not of who I was, nor who Bartolomeo was, nor our station, not of my dead mother, nor my grieving Lord Father—for one delicious moment I was filled with joy at having him delight in me and feeling his ardor! I felt strong and powerful in my passion.

But I was mistaken.

Bartolomeo della Scala is no boy, he does not play at things. In an instant he transformed from devoted suitor to predator. I was not immediately aware of this change. At first when he lifted me in his arms, taking me to his bed, and laid me on the coverlet, I thought he was being playful, and I demurred coyly. Saying “Lord della Scala, you go too far, we must resist this temptation.” but in an instant he was on top of me fumbling with my skirt and petticoats. My stomach flipped. I struggled to free myself from below him. I could not, he was too strong and too heavy, my gown was tangled under his knee. My mind raced, what could I do to save myself? Should I cry out and bring upon us my household, newly in mourning with the passing of its Matriarch? What would my Father say? What would he do? One does not cast a della Scala from one’s doorstep as if he were a merchant’s son. I knew that to call for assistance would bring great shame and risk to my Father’s household.

I was paralyzed with these thoughts spinning in my head as Bartolomeo continued with his advance. He had my small clothes off so quickly and his hand groped towards my most intimate region. With frightening dexterity he loosened his hose and with a thrust took me. I felt a searing pain as my virtue was ripped apart. I cried out! He put his hand over my mouth, telling me the pain would pass quickly. Then in another instant his body stiffened, he cried out, and fell upon me with all his weight as if he were dead! I held my breath, not knowing what to do, or if in fact he were dead? But a moment later he stirred and laid down on his back beside me.

We lay there briefly. I stared at the wood carvings embellishing the ceiling. I had never noticed them before in this room. Small rosettes all in a row, alternating colors of white and blue.

Moments later Bartolomeo was up, gathering his hose and shirt, and quickly walking into the privy. I felt something wet on the sheets, and looked to see blood staining what had once been white and clean.

Bartolomeo emerged dressed and neat. He looked at me, still lying in the bed, staring at the ceiling, with disdain. “Get up and fix your gown,” He commanded with ice in his voice, as if I were a servant. When I had done so, he sat beside me on the bed, speaking in a voice one reserves for a small child or a feeble old person. “Caterina, I am to be wed. That is why I am called home. My father has not concluded his negotiations so I may not speak of it to you beyond explaining that I am betrothed.” My face grew hot and I fought to keep the tears that swam in my eyes from overflowing. Confusion and anger filled me. I said nothing. He continued, “I’ll not speak of what has transpired here to anyone.” He looked as if he thought that was the most noble thing a man could do. In my despair I was stunned. I felt as though I were hearing these words spoken to someone else. I felt not like myself, Maria Grazia. I know not who I was, but it felt as if everything that had taken place were in a spectacle I was watching. Next, I recall he stood up, and held out his hand for mine as I rose from the bed. He ushered me out of his chamber, his hand at my back, as I crossed the floor. He called his man for his bags and was on his horse and off in less time than it would take to say a rosary. . .


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