Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. The rules have now been relaxed to allow a few more sentences if merited, so long as they’re clearly indicated, to avoid the creative punctuation many of us have used to stay within the limit.
I’m now sharing from my alternative history, with the working title A Dream of Peacocks. It starts on May Day 1274, when Dante met his great love and muse Beatrice Portinari, and will give them an eventual happy ending, with lots of Sturm und Drang.
I’ve skipped ahead to Chapter XVI, “Permanently Broken Bond.” It’s now 1287, and Dante is 22 years old, married for the last two and a half years to Gemma Donati. He was studying with his guardian and mentor Brunetto Latini when his eight-year-old halfsister Gaetana (Tana) told him Gemma went into labor about two months early. During their walk home, he discovers Tana knows about his love for another woman.
“Do I have to watch if Gemma’s really having a baby now?” Tana asked as we started walking out of Ser Brunetto’s house. “Mamma said it was important, but I’m afraid. Gemma was bleeding when I left, and her noises didn’t sound human.”
I held her hand a little tighter. “Birth is a female business, so I don’t know anything about it besides what I’ve read in a few books about science. You can stay downstairs with me while Gemma labors if you’re scared to observe. But remember, we should only fear things with the power to hurt us. Nothing else is fearsome, since we were made by God in his grace to be able to withstand many difficult and negative things.”
Tana stepped over the threshold and into the street. “Is that from the Bible?”
The ten lines end here. A few more follow to finish the scene.
“No, it’s something my old friend Bice often says.” I side-stepped an oncoming herd of pigs, keeping a firm hold on my sister. “She first spoke those words to me when I was recovering from a very serious illness in childhood. I asked her why she wasn’t afraid to come into my room to pray, and Bice said God in his mercy protects his faithful from even the most frightening, dangerous things.”
“Are you talking about the Bice you’re in love with?”
I came to an abrupt stop. “I’m talking about the second daughter of Ser Folco Portinari and Monna Cilia de’ Caponsacchi. What makes you think I’m in love with her?”
Tana giggled. “I see the way you gaze at her all the time and talk to her at church. You never look at Gemma like that or seek out her company. It’s obvious you care for her a lot more than Gemma. I’d be surprised if Gemma didn’t suspect it by now, even if she’s never said anything.”
“Yes, I do love Bice, and I’ve loved her since we were children,” I admitted in as low of an intelligible voice as possible. “But she belongs to another man, and I to another lady.”
Next week I’ll be switching to my yearly Christmas-themed excerpts, followed by a New Year’s snippet and something for Russian Orthodox Christmas. The excerpts from my alternative history will resume on 16 January.