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 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.
This comes from Chapter XVI, “Permanently Broken Bond,” a bit after last week’s excerpt. It’s now 1287, and Dante has become a widower at age 22. His wife Gemma Donati died shortly after giving birth to a premature stillborn boy whose limbs, shoulders, and neck were broken as he was maneuvered out of a stuck breech position.
Despite being submerged in grief, Dante feels obligated to attend Mass with his much-younger halfsiblings.
Church of Santa Margherita, Copyright Javier Carro
I walked downstairs in a daze, almost tripping down a few steps. Though I often indulged in a light morning meal instead of abstaining until dinner, today I had no appetite for such a thing. I watched with blank eyes as my siblings partook of candied ginger, bread, sausage, dates, and hard cheese. It might as well be Great Lent.
We walked to Santa Margherita in silence, holding hands. A few people called out greetings to us, and we could only nod at them in acknowledgment. Every time I saw a man walking with his wife, the jagged wound carved upon my heart was ripped anew.
“Can I stand with you and Francesco?” Tana begged. “Girls are allowed on the men’s side if they’re my age, and I don’t have any ladies to stand with.”
The nine lines end here. A few more follow to complete the scene.
“I don’t see why not. I used to worship on the ladies’ side until I started taking Communion, since I otherwise would’ve been all alone.” I looked over my right shoulder at a sudden, familiar touch on the back of my arm.
“What happened?” Beatrice asked softly. “I couldn’t help noticing your melancholic demeanor, and you look like you’ve been entombed.”
I began weeping piteously all over again.
“Gemma is with God now,” Tana said. “She went into labor yesterday, and she died this morning. The baby was two months early, and he was gone before he was born. Now he’s in Limbo in a beautiful castle full of light, with other babies who died unbaptized and righteous non-Christians.”