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 switching to a brand-new project, an alternative history I’ve wanted to do for 17 years but didn’t have any specific outline for till recently. Its working title is A Dream of Peacocks. You could’ve knocked me over with a feather if you’d told me this would demand to be first-person narration! I always assumed it’d be my usual third-person omniscient.
My synopsis is still a work in progress, but here’s the beginning:
What if one of the most famous love stories in history wasn’t unrequited?
When Dante Alighieri and Beatrice Portinari meet as children on May Day 1274, they’re instantly drawn to one another with a strong, precocious love. Their dreams of marriage come to an abrupt end when their fathers arrange their betrothals to other people, but an unexpected second chance comes when they’re both widowed in their early twenties.
I think the first line of the second paragraph sounds a bit clunky, so any suggestions for tinkering are appreciated. It’s based on an early line in La Vita Nuova, in which Dante describes his age relative to the cycles of the Sun (as understood in Medieval astronomy), and the description of the Sun in Canto I of Inferno as the planet which leads us straight on every path (pianeta che mena dritto altrui per ogne calle).
From the very first time I saw her, I knew Beatrice Portinari would someday be my wife. I just never realized how long, complicated, and anguished our path to a permanent happily ever after would be.
The Sun, that heavenly planet of light which leads us straight on every path, had circled back nearly to the same point nine times since my birth when my life changed forever with an invitation to the rich neighbors’ house for May Day. But as my father and I left our house that fateful morning, I was as yet unaware of the destiny which would soon begin unfolding.
The old stone streets of Piazza San Martino were full of other May Day revelers bedecked with violets and roses, carrying alder, laburnum, and more flowers, and singing auspicious songs meant to entice people into giving them sweets, wine, eggs, food, and alms. Some of these Maggerini also played instruments to accompany their sweet verses. As dearly as I wished I could stop and listen to all of them, I was compelled to keep walking alongside Babbo so as not to be late. The Portinaris were a very wealthy, important banking family, and it wouldn’t create a flattering impression if we arrived late. They might not invite us again, and as Babbo always stressed, a lesser noble family of reduced station like ours needed all the powerful friends and connections we could find. Though we had enough money to live comfortably, we weren’t equal to the city’s richest families.
The ten lines end here. A few more follow to complete the scene.
Babbo indicated the stone tower house on Via del Corso, in front of which another group of Maggerini were singing their joyous songs and playing their sweet instruments. The doors were open, and several adults were distributing gold florins, candied ginger, slices of focaccia, and honeyed almonds. When I saw the brocade, velvet, silk, and gold and silver embroidery on their clothes, I hoped my fairly humble green wool tunic and red hose would be deemed acceptable.
Presently, the Maggerini finished their performance and moved towards the next house, and Babbo moved forward and addressed a man in a brilliant Byzantine blue velvet tunic with serious bearing.
“A joyous Calendimaggio, Ser Folco. I’m Alighiero di Bellincione, and this is my son Durante. We live on Via Santa Margherita.”