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Be my wife

(Vatican City, 1689)

When Fiammetta heard Tim speak the words, “God wants you to be my wife,” it was sweeter to her ears than the voice of an angel. All those nights of self doubt and longing, vanished in an instant. Flashing back to the first time she saw him walk into the market, Fiammetta remembered that magical, mystical moment well.

A few times at the market, but thousands of times over the last year, in the loneliness of her small room, tears staining her face, she steeled herself with the memory of that singular moment. A sudden knowing without reasoning, feeling him without holding, trusting what she felt in her heart so deeply that she stubbornly refused to yield to her family’s demands to marry another.

The windows of their souls

The high born lady remembered being transfixed by the tall, broad-shouldered monk, obviously trying to hide his true identity. Against all her upbringing, she simply stood and stared. When their eyes met, holding each other captive, Fiammetta scarcely breathed. Time stopped, as her heart heart beat hard. She felt as if her spirit would forsake her body altogether if she but consented just a little.

It was his eyes, deeply compassionate, sensitive eyes that burned through her soul that day and countless nights afterwards. Against everything she’d ever been taught, her spirit ached for him until she concluded the unthinkable: she was meant for him. Which is why, to Matteo Imperiali’s lawyer’s horror, she refused to assent to the marriage contract he proposed for the influential Cardinal’s nephew.

M’Lady, you can’t be serious!

“No! and that’s my final answer. I will not wed Cardinal Imperiali’s nephew!” Fiammetta said, pushing her way past Matteo’s exasperated messenger.

“But M’Lady, this is an honorable family, a wonderful match. His uncle is the treasurer of the Papal States, surely you must – “


Several days later, in retaliation, Fiammetta’s family cut her monthly stipend by two thirds, barred her from official and family functions, and made known to all that none should ease her plight. Now a pariah, she was forced, little by little, to sell almost everything she cherished. Furniture, linen, gilded plates and eventually her dresses and fine jewelry – even items that had been in her family for generations – went to the highest bidder.

Allow me this last dignity

“Please, take this, it is the least I can do, Meriel, you’ve been so good to me.” Fiammetta said. Tears in her maidservants eyes, Meriel handed it back saying, “Please M’lady, I don’t need pay, let me stay with you and I am sure our fortunes will turn.” Chest aching, Fiammetta, placed the broach in her governesses hand once again, saying, “Please allow me this one last dignity.” With that, Meriel hugged the woman she had raised from a child. Feeling as if her last ounce of strength had left, Fiammetta wept, curling into bed, crying far into the night.”

The cold morning light of the cloudy sky, filtered through the drapes, as Fiammetta tied her red cloak around her shoulders. Leonetto, looking around the corner, asked, “Mamma, where do you go?” Turning, his mother said, “I go to the market little one, to buy breakfast, I’ll be back before you know it. Go back to bed.” she said, kissing his forehead.

Opening the front door, the chill of the morning bracing her face, Fiammetta, for the first time in her life, like a common servant, stepped from her threshold to shop in the morning market.

A new dawn

Yet, this evening, looking into Tim’s eyes now, feeling his strength in her weakness, she knew beyond doubt God had spoken right all along. Now the many long nights when she hoped against hope seemed a fading dream in this new dawn.

The truth of his words, that she should be his wife, as fantastical as they sounded, seemed perfectly right to her spirit. This was happening and nothing they could do, save refusing God himself, could stop it. A sense of deep peace and holiness settled upon her little room as Fiammetta said, “Yes, Timothy! With all my heart, I’ll be your wife.”

The touch of God

Tim, looking deeply into her blue eyes, felt a tenderness he’d forbidden himself all his life. Fiammetta was perfect, and even in her delicate state of recovery, her red lips invited his affection. Skin, warm and soft as a dove’s breast, beckoned him with a power that he was unable and unwilling to resist.

He knew, beyond doubt, he was about to act in a way that would change his life forever. This was the touch of God. Though it was madness, to be sure, for he was virtually the second in command of The Order, there was no question what he would do. Though a scion of evil itself, Tim knew he was about to gladly commit the one cardinal sin neither the Order or Her Majesty would ever forgive: He was about to fall in love.


Tim bent down and kissed her sweetly, his heart swelling. Fiammetta kissed him back eagerly, yielding to his gentle movements, her breath mingling with his, sighing as his fingers lightly caressed her cheek. The feeling of oneness, spirits uniting, caused him to draw back in surprise. “There was no sin in this! This was the most right thing I’ve ever done,” Tim thought to himself.

Kissing her again, he felt her tremble, as she turned away to cough. Timothy, realizing her fragile state, gently laid her back into bed.

“Sleep now, my love, rest. I’ll watch over you.” he said.

Running his fingers gently through her golden hair until she closed her eyes, Tim stayed with her long after she fell into a deep, peaceful sleep.

A certain purpose

Walking out of his love’s room, The Cardinal, now fully understanding God‘s will, summoned his maid servant.

Dropping a small bag of florins in Maria’s hand, Tim said, “See to it that this place is furnished properly. Buy anything they need. Give me an exact accounting of it when I return. Do it quietly, don’t attract attention. Find the boys a tutor and dress them properly.”

“Yes, Father,” Maria said.

Looking at her a moment longer, Tim said, “For your service, keep one of the florins for yourself.”

Scarcely believing his generosity, Maria simply nodded, saying, “Thank you, Cardinal.”

Food fair

(Realm of Elysia)

The smell of food wafting on the evening’s gentle breeze made Bren salivate. Everything in Elysia tasted so fresh all the time. Though she remembered very good foods during her childhood, here everything tasted better than she ever imagined.

As she and Hope approached the feasting area, hundreds of food stalls, each with their own specialty, appeared. Beautiful men and women thronged them, sampling their various delights.

Bren said, “It all looks so good, where do we start?”

Hope replied, “If Grace were here, it would be pastries, but since we are the sensible ones, let’s begin… I know just the place.”

Bren, following after her friend, tugged at her sleeve, saying, “Wait, Hope, how do we pay? I’ve no money.”

Stopping, Hope asked, “Money?”

“You know, something to give the shopkeeper for our food.”

Hope said, “What would you give?”

A lack of communication

Bren, sensing an obvious lack of communication, replied, “Money, something of value to exchange for what you buy from the person who sells it.”

“Why would you do that?” Hope asked.

“Where I come from, when you buy something, you have to give the shopkeeper coins in exchange,” Brenzel explained.

A light turning on in her mind, Hope said, “Oh, I get it. Here you give a ‘thank you,’ but first you always say ‘please.’ Come, I’ll show you.”

Walking along the wealth of stalls loaded with an endless variety of delicious fare, Hope came to one who offered them both a sample to taste. Taking it off the wooden spoon, what looked like cheese, potato and perhaps mint or some other herb, Bren let the morsel present itself fully.

Please and thank you

“Mmmm, oh my! That’s sooo good!” Bren said as the sensation of velvety smooth cheese and onion, perfectly cooked potato, spiced mildly, danced it’s way across her taste buds. “This is divine!” Bren groaned to the smiling young man.

Hope said, “Please, Yokavil, may we have some for both of us?”

“Of course,” he said has he put a generous portion on each of their plates. “Would you care for something to drink?” he offered.

“Yes, do you have any of that sweet tea you always make? That would be lovely.”

“Of course, Hope, I’d be delighted.”

“Thank you, love, you’re a dear.”

Both girls went a little ways, finding a table to sit at, as Bren savored every mouthful of her fare, sipping the tea in between delicious bites. Hope, enjoying the food just as much, said, “So you see, dear, that is how it works here, you find something you like, ask for it by saying ‘please,’ then always be polite and say ‘thank you.'”

Freely given

Bren, half hearing here diminutive friend as she basked in her food, said, “That’s it? So everything here is free? Someone’s got to pay for it, though. They can’t just give it away.” Brenzel insisted.

“Why not?” Hope replied.

Face scrunching, Bren said, “Okay, I give up. I’ll just follow your lead. Right now, let’s go get some more!”