Isabella walked hand in hand through the market place with Rosalie. Another beautiful day greeted them but Isabella was too much in shock to appreciate it.
"You are telling me that Mary-Alicia has left? When will she return?"
Rosalie stopped to admire a bolt of red silk. "She is not expected to return. She has left her house and staff in the care of Bree. It seems Lord Whitlock has his heir and a spare. His wife, Lady Maria, is a cold fish and he does not love her. So, he is devoting himself to our Mary-Alicia."
"She really left?"
"Yes. Quit repeating that." Rosalie rolled her eyes at her friend. "Lord Whitlock apparently hid her on the ship. He has apartments in Portugal and the Queen has given him permission to stay on there for a time. Then they will travel to Bordeaux where his Lordship has some stake in vineyards, before going on to England." Rosalie paused and waited for what she knew was coming.
"Mary-Alicia has left?"
"In her letter she said that Lord Whitlock is to purchase a home in London since he spends so much time there attending the Queen's business. Or Parliament, or something. I cannot recall at this time. He has even promised to take her to a bear baiting event. How barbaric." Rosalie sighed. "It will be dull as doom there for her. She is to be a kept woman and attend only to Whitlock." Rosalie visibly shuddered.
Sir Edward bellowed from the dank hall below deck. Lord Whitlock quickly turned and fled in the opposite direction. When the knight finally caught up to the earl, he grabbed him by the nape of the neck. "Pray tell me, Lord Whitlock," he began in a deceptively calm voice. "Is it true that we have a stowaway?"
Shoving the knight off, Whitlock took on every air of his high station, "I do not answer to you Sir Edward. You will do well to remember that. I disembark in Portugal with the Queen's authority and I will see you in London by Michaelmas." He paused. "Or Twelfth Night at the latest."
Sir Edward leaned against the wood beam and shook his head at his best friend. "I do not know if I am angry with your actions or if I am jealous." He snorted and ran a hand over his forehead and through his hair. "Either way, I am not to meet you in London until some time in the new year. I must spend Michaelmas attending my lands and as you already know, Lady Tanya is with child."
Whitlock held his hand out, "Then we agree to meet and celebrate when we are able to toast the arrival of your babe. Now, if you will excuse me. In a few days we set anchor in Spain and while you collect our King, I have promised Mary-Alicia entertainment."
Lady Tanya sat with her sisters amongst the lilacs and roses in her father's garden. Her babe already causing her body to change.
As she had only lain with her husband a total of three times after he claimed her maidenhead and before the Queen called for him - God bless her - and since all of those occurred during the month of April (surely he will not expect it more often than that in the future), the midwife in tenancy on her father's estate gave notice to plan on her babe's arrival in late January or early February of the new year.
She concentrated again on the conversation and her sister, Irina, gloating about Queen Mary's intent to restore England to the Catholic faith. "You, sister, are only lucky she has forgiven your wicked Protestant ways and that she accepted Sir Edward's petition for marriage."
"I, lucky?" Tanya stood and began pacing behind her sisters. Her brow covered in sweat. "How am I lucky, dear sister? I have had to renounce my faith and beg forgiveness. I am sick every day now that my husband's seed grows inside me and I can not even attend court! Oh, I hate our father for making me marry."
She sat again and rocked back and forth while pulling at her hair. Her sister, Kate, jumped up and grabbed her arms. "Stop it. You will pull out all of your pins. Do you want to upset mother?"
Lady Tanya laughed loudly. She grabbed her skirts and proceeded to flap them. "I have wings of a bird and I must away. Don't touch my feathers. But, shh! Our mother scolds me." She dropped her skirts and pulled on her bodice. "It is so warm. Are you warm, my loves?"
Irina sent her maid inside for help. Lady Tanya had these spells of mindless fury occasionally as a child and their parents coddled her for fear she was going mad and would soon die or need to be sent away. Instead, the spells lessened, finally disappearing altogether, and all they were left with was a spoiled brat. However, since marrying, Tanya's bouts of madness were returning with more frequency and she feared for her sister.
Their father arrived and picked up Tanya, hushing her. "I have heard that our Queen has already sent your husband to fetch Her own. How funny is that, my dear? Would you like to hear the story?"
"I miss my friends, papa."
"I cannot allow you to associate with those who refuse to stay faithful to the one true religion."
"I want to return to Hatfield House and play with Elizabeth. We will sing and dance and make merry. Like the summer you let me stay there with her. Remember? Oh look, papa, someone has hung lace from the stars. Odd how I am blinded by the sun while the stars shine so bright." She hugged her father's neck as he carried her. "I wish to have pudding… and goose. Father, you will keep the ghosts from my room, yes? They like to play in the chamber pot!"
Lord Eleazar took his daughter to her bed chamber. Inside her mother sat with a prepared concoction of herbs and oils. "This should be enough. The physician would like to bleed her, but he thinks it would be safer to wait until after the birth of her child."
Tanya sat up and threw her pillow at her mother. "You whore! You are no queen of mine! How could you? Oh, Elizabeth. They were so mean. Let's ride today, shall we?"
Her father held her down while her mother cried. "She screams, cries, laughs, and her words make no sense."
Tanya turned out of her father's reach and expelled the contents of her stomach on to the floor.
"All we can do is pray, my love."
Sir Edward stayed with the procession all the way to Winchester Cathedral. There, he attended the formal wedding of Queen Mary and King Philip before splitting off and riding to his lands north of Hertfordshire. Upon his departure he gave a letter to the Venetian ambassador who was also in attendance and had agreed to deliver it with his own correspondence.
Touching the scroll he carried inside his doublet and next to his heart, Edward hastened to Masen Manor. He was welcomed with a feast and pleased to see that his wife had returned to once again take over her responsibilities as Lady of the Manor.
Her ladyship's mother was set up in rooms to stay until after the birth and already had her own midwife and the physician installed nearby.
After a lengthy meeting with his steward, Sir Edward retired to his rooms. There he withdrew the scroll and unrolled it on his desk. He used his cup to hold one corner down and a jeweled box to hold another. He rested his arm along the bottom and kept the picture flat as he stared in to the eyes of his Isabella.
Isabella hugged Esme as she entered the library. "You are well, I trust?"
"I am very well. Cosimo I de'Medici, the Duke of Florence has had another son." Esme sat and fluffed her skirts. "I know, I know. Not a year goes by that he doesn't." Both women giggled before Esme continued. "He has invited the Duke of Parma and Count Dimitri to Palazzo Pitti, and of course, extended the invitation to Cardinal Cullen. He also requested that they travel with a retinue of ladies interested in the arts. We are to behold the great statue of Perseus by Benvenuto Cellini."
"Oh, Rosalie will be happy, she does love artists."
"Well, this artist loves his young assistant's arse, so she might be disappointed."
"Oh, no. Only more happy with the challenge."
Esme retrieved a letter from her reticule. "We should be back from Florence by All Hallows. Now, here." She handed the letter to Isabella. "This arrived in a bundle of dispatch from England. It was addressed to the Cardinal, he requested I deliver it to you directly."
Esme stood and smiled devilishly, "Enjoy your letter, my sweet. I still have to call upon Rosalie, Jane, and Bree."
Isabella walked out her back door and sat upon a chair that was happily situated facing the sun and overlooking the city. She opened her letter and took a moment to calm her racing heart.
My humble remembrance, beautiful Isabella, hoping in the Almighty of your health which on my knees I beseech Him to long continue. For you hold my faith in all things and I have trusted you with my soul.
It was thence, somewhere betwixt Italy's shores and Spain, that I came to the realization that 'tis not enough to sacrifice a single heart. Your beauty does haunt me, my Bella. I found myself on my knees before God in this place where my Queen did take her husband, and I prayed that love should overrule obligation, all laws, all ties that bind duty and blood. But no. No! A fit of honor to vows already made, have ten thousand times broke my heart since our parting.
I must abide unto my responsibilities, for much depends upon my attentions, but know this, sweet Bella. I will soon beg of Her Majesty to put me to use for crown and kingdom that I may travel to your shores once again. If I am to rest ever again, we will be together. I find you now in my dreams and your lips are still sweet if only the moments were not too brief. I stare upon the gift you gave me of your likeness and speak to you as if you were here. Oh! If only you could answer. I read from the poets, they offer no remedy for my despair. There are no medicines that I may take to ease my soul.
Your kind servant presented me a token before departing my company on the last morning. She beseeched I accept it and take care not to open until I was securely in my own company. So in my bed, under covers and before extinguishing my candle on that first night, I opened it and was immediately surrounded by your, nay, our scents. Inside this package, bundled tightly, your dear servant, who will forever hold my esteem, had wrapped one green, emerald, robe that I wore on many occasions in your presence. For this, I humbly ask you to thank her. Even now, the scent fades but I shall wear it when I am alone while I search for you again in my dreams.
I am sure the last true joy I shall ever know will be in your arms. Until that day, my hands and head write to you from English soil, while my heart and soul remain forever yours in Venice. Humbling craving your embrace, this twenty sixth day of July in the year 1554. Knight of your heart, Edward
As for Tanya's illness. Briefly, she suffered a type of childhood illness and the high fevers associated with it, messed with her head. As a child, she'd go a little nutso when she got the fevers, but when she hit puberty, the hormones made things right in her body and soon the reactions ceased. When she became pregnant, the hormones once again put her body out of whack and the fevers are returning. This time, her brain is having a harder time dealing with the strain.
I would have posted this sooner, but I got sucked in to researching Cosimo I de'Medici. Seriously. If I would have known about him before writing this fic, things may have gone very differently.
I have noticed a ton of new readers. Please let me know how you found my little fic. And thank you, all!