olive branches

2. Your most devoted friend — Maria Grazia

Friday, 6 December, 1284

Carissima Caterina,

When you stretch to see the moon, dearest friend, do not forget the sun. Nothing can vanquish it. Not the thick stone walls of the abbey, not even the cold stare of Mother Annunziata. Nothing, not the moon or stars or even the wind can extinguish it. Be the sun, Caterina. Keep your thoughts light and your heart bright. They are what we really see by, is it not true?

Please, Caterina, do not rail against this time you spend relegated to your chamber. Think of it as a respite from sitting across from Suora Isabella as she gnashes her food. Surely it will make you smile to imagine Suora Allegra performing your chores in your stead. I must confess, I delight in seeing her wash the floors with a scowl upon her face. And just think of poor Suora Bruna, with one less bowl of gruel to prepare. Surely her distress outweighs your own!

Dearest friend, I hope I have made you smile. If I have failed, I will endeavor to soothe your mind with the knowledge that you hold the key to your prison cell. Apologize to Mother Annunziata and all will be forgiven. I believe you did no wrong, Caterina, but the woman is as fixed to her beliefs as a sycamore is to the ground. You do yourself no favor by inciting her wrath. Apologize and we can be as we were.

I know my saying this has angered you, Caterina. I entreat you to judge me as one who desperately misses her dearest friend and will do anything to ensure her return.

You have my love and devotion no matter what you do, but please do not be consumed by the darkness of anger. You can find the light, Caterina. You must. Rejoice in the sun that shines through your window, a tiny sliver though it may be. If even that eludes you, see the sun in the sound of birdsong or in the brush of the wind. Have faith in the light that resides in your very soul and warm your heart in its hearth. Close your eyes and see it. We are back in the pear tree looking up at the endless sky, where the world of vespers and chores and constant kneeling and praying does not exist. It is only us. Us and the sun.
Your most devoted friend,
Maria Grazia


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