Alchemist Gift – Amelia is Bedridden
Alchemist Gift continued: Rini, Prunella and Miranda knelt around Amelia. The others, stayed their distance, stood in little groups of two and three, looked at Amelia and Farintino and whispered quiet and unsure words. With help from Farintino and Marcella Amelia got to her feet. She was shaking, pale and sweating and swayed between the two of them. They dare not let go of her arms as she was barely able to keep on her feet.
Farintino bid Maria with a nod and a twitch of his eye brows to take his place supporting Amelia. “Take her home and put her to bed. Stay with her until she falls asleep.”
“Yes, papa.” they answered in unison.
Farintino turned to the rest of his family and in-laws and friends who remained. “This has been very upsetting for Amelia, I’m sure she will regain herself. I’m so sorry. Please pray for us.”
Everyone implied they would with their understanding looks and quiet good byes.
* * * * * * * *
Amelia, with her daughters’ help made the hot tiring trek back to the house. As they slowly passed through the square they drew the curious who had already heard the story and wanted to look into Amelia’s face, to look into her eyes. They were disappointed if they expected to see a fierce wild animal that needed to be restrained.
The pace was slow and deliberate. The square seemed to stretch on like a great dessert. She moved as if she suffered an awful wound. Amelia forced her legs on and with great effort shuffled her feet. A girl named Cinzia who was getting water at the fountain took her small pitcher to them. Amelia drank only a few swallows but Marcella and Maria thanked the girl profusely.
The market place gossips who berated the pretty young country girl those many years ago when Amelia first came to Terra Sanctus now felt that their initial observations were true and sage. They nodded and smugly agreed this was the inevitable outcome for any scheming outsider who dared take away one of the eligible townsmen, especially one like her. Now this murder of crones eagerly whispered among themselves the delicious words “demon” and “possessed” as Amelia and her daughters passed them on their way to the Andano front gate.
The fifteen minute walk had been grueling for Amelia; the sun seemed to pound on her already aching head. All three felt great relief when they finally entered the cool, empty house. With Marcella’s help Amelia made it to the bedroom, slipped off her shoes and collapsed onto the bed. She got under the covers, clothes and all and stayed there for the next three days, only rising to relieve herself or drink water.
By the mid-morning of the following day the house began to empty. After her daughters tidied things up, they and their children and husbands went in the bedroom where Amelia laid trance-like, said goodbye and wished her well. Amelia could just lift her hand up to touch their faces as they kissed her good bye.
Miranda and Rini and their families were the first to leave. Although they had both planned to stay for a few days more, they thought it best to go and leave the house a tranquil refuge for their mother. They both reasoned that Marcella’s experience with their grandpapa made her the best choice to serve their mother’s needs.
Maria told Marcella she going to stay. She was facing Marcella when she spoke and her husband stood behind her. While making the offer Gius’s smile faded and he conveyed to Marcella via a frantic shake of his head that he would not like that to happen. Marcella’s quick glance and ever so subtle nod acknowledged she understood.
“Thank you dear sister, I know our mother’s needs, and you have your own family to tend to, think of your little ones. Thank you so much again.” Maria who was used to getting her way was about to argue when Gius placed his hand on his wife’s shoulder and pulled her a tiny bit back toward him.
He smiled at Marcella, “thank you sister-in-law. Come Maria, we have a long way to go before we sleep in our bed again.” Gius nodded and tugged a little bit more on his wife’s shoulder until she nodded in agreement. Marcella kissed Maria on both cheeks. She and Gius went off to collect their two children and say good-bye to Farintino.
With the house finally empty Farintino sprawled out in the large chair in the main room and in less than ten minutes he dozed off. Marcella took this bit of time to wash her face and change out of her good dress and put on her ordinary clothes and her comfortable open back slippers.
She smiled when she heard Farintino snoring in the front room. Marcella went to the kitchen and made herself some honey water. She looked up when she heard a noise coming from the garden and was happy to see Aunt Prunella heading toward the kitchen door.
With all of the excitement over and the people gone Prunella too was all too ready to sit and relax. She entered the kitchen, hugged Marcella, sat on the bench and put her elbows on the work table and sighed.
“Zietta, do have something to drink, I made some honey water, there’s enough for both of us.”
“Yes, I would like that.”
Marcella poured two cups and put one in front of her aunt.
“Quite an affair.”
Marcella nodded. They sat in silence for a minute or two. Prunella softly drummed her fingers on the table top and looked at Marcella.
“Fausto looked so peaceful, all shaved and clean, and his face no longer twisted up.”
Marcella did not know why nor care why her aunt was waxing on about Fausto.
“Your poor mother,” Prunella sat in a little closer to her niece. “Do you have any notion why she would do such a thing?” Prunella cautiously searched Marcella’s eyes for a sign that she knew or didn’t know.
Marcella gave an indefinable nod. Things all of a sudden felt awkward between the two. “Do you?” countered Marcella.
Prunella smiled, reached out and took Marcella’s hands in hers. “Oh, sweetheart, life is such a strange tangle.”
“Tell me.” Marcella was only a little surprised that her aunt might know.
“At this very table, twenty two years ago I was sitting just as I am now, holding your mother’s hands, just as I am holding yours and she told me the terrible thing that Fausto did to her.”
“You knew he was my father all this time?”
Prunella could feel Marcella’s hand tug against her; she tightened her hold. “Please don’t pull away, please. We must be as one to help your mama.”
Marcella relaxed her shoulders and hands. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I promised your mother I wouldn’t. I promised her I would tell no one, not you, no one. I gave her my word. I hated to see her punish herself all of those years for something she was innocent of. That brother of mine had them both by the throat. Farintino once told me that Fausto called your mother a…may God forgive me…a slut. And he always carried that ugly thought with him, no matter how hard he tried to get rid of it. He told me you were more important to him than not knowing for sure if what his father told him was true. If I told him the truth he might have driven you and your mother out.”
Marcella sat there and listened.
“And Fausto after he was sure he poisoned Farintino with his lies told your mama that if she spoke out it would be easy to show she was just a temptress, what with those love letters, that would make an easy argument that she seduced him. And where would she go? The street?”
“We must never tell Farintino.” added Marcella pondering the consequences.
Prunella nodded, exhaled a long, slow breath, let go of Marcella’s hands and patted them. She took a long drink of honey water and again let out a long sigh, “finally, so many years, it can be said.“
* * * * * * * *
For the next three days Marcella did not leave her mother’s side. She brought her fresh food every morning that at first she refused, but by the third day she had an appetite. Marcella washed her mother’s face every morning and combed her hair. She rubbed her back and massaged her feet. She climbed in bed with her at night and slept with her front snuggled against her mother’s back and legs, and her arms wrapped around her. They whispered their prayers together.
On the forth morning Marcella arose, dressed and kissed her mother on the cheek. She went across what was left of the garden to the workshop where Farintino was showing Pietro and Paulo some basic stitches as Anselmo looked on.
Marcella, at this point found it difficult to address Farintino as papa but did so anyway. “Papa, will you help me bring the copper dying tub to the house?”
“Daughter, why do you want to do that?” Farintino smiled at the two boys who looked at Marcella and wondered too at her request.
“You know where it is.”
“The twins can help me, yes?”
Anselmo who was leaning against the cutting table stood up straight and stretched. “Yes, they could use a break. Boys, help Marcella.”
Pietro and Paulo almost knocked themselves over bounding from their seats to help. Marcella smiled and beckoned them to follow her to behind the workshop. She tugged on the wattle gate that was hindered by thick clumps of dead grass. The boys rushed to the gate, threw their backs into it and in their enthusiasm tore the top leather hinge so the gate was now unserviceable. It had to be propped up against the wall at an ungainly angle. The storage yard was maybe fifteen paces long, as long as the work shop and five paces wide, the distance between the rear of the workshop and the earthen wall that enclosed the alley side of the property.
The place was overgrown with a beautiful wild grape vine that was lush with broad green leaves and hung heavy with clusters of ruby grapes dusted with fine white pollen. Paulo, Marcella knew because he had a scar on his chin, made a running jump and tried to scale the mud wall. Paulo dug the toes of his shoes into the crumbling wall looking for purchase and in doing so knocked out fist-sized chunks of adobe onto the ground. Pietro had his back to his brother and was busy picking and eating the juicy, sun-warmed grapes. He turned around to offer some to Paulo but could not resist throwing some at his brother who hung on the wall with his back exposed, it seemed, to play the part of an escaping pirate in Pietro’s fantasy. “Stop you, or my fusiliers will discharge their weapons!” With that he threw the handful of grapes he was about to stuff into his mouth at his brother, peppering him and the wall, leaving behind round wet spots where the grapes hit and exploded.
Marcella felt as if she just stepped into a whirlwind. “Boys! Enough!”
Paulo let go of the top of the wall and landed on the ground and Pietro wiped his sticky lips on the back of his wrist. In what seemed less than the blink of an eye both boys stood in front of her with adorable smiles and glowing eyes.
Pietro bowed and gave a courtly salute. Paulo clicked his heels together and also bowed his head. “How may we serve you, your ladyship?”
Marcella grew up with sisters; she was quite unaccustomed to the unbounded energy these two dervishes generated. “Well my good knights, your quest is to pull that copper dying vat out of the Great Forest of Weeds and carry it to my castle for me.” At that instant, because Marcella referred to them as her knights, they were smitten. They both felt it at that same instance.
The twins went into a weed pulling frenzy, throwing hanks of dead grass held together at the roots by the dried earth over their shoulders until the air behind them was filled with dust. Much to Marcella’s surprise they were very careful when it came to the grapevine. They gently unwound each of the pale green tendrils that were entwined around anything that might lend support to the sprawling vine.
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Alchemist Gift is a book about the lives of people in the Renaissance and the alchemy that brought them together with its repercussions on our modern-day hero, Roland.
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