Friday, April 19, 2013

A Frustrating Day for Cardinal Fratelli (part II)

Throughout dinner, Cardinal Fratelli managed to avoid Veronica’s flirtatious glances. He hoped her father would intervene but he was already too drunk with wine. Thank goodness, Fratelli thought, he hasn’t asked for more. In order to be rid of the temptation, the cardinal quickly poured a last glass and drank it.
Noticing, Sergio laughed.
“No more wine?” he asked.
“No.” Fratelli said.
Veronica giggled at him while her mother, Julia, yawned.
“My dear, I am tired,” she mumbled, “It is so late. Should we be off?”
Yes,” Fratelli interrupted before the sluggish Sergio could reply.
Getting the message, Sergio stood. He shook crumbs off his fine attire, straitened his hair and helped his wife from her chair. Veronica unseated last. She seemed reluctant to leave, almost disappointed. Perhaps upset she cannot ogle me anymore…Fratelli mused. Of course he didn’t say anything about it. With polite smiles, he gave Sergio and his family farewell, guided them out and blessed them on their way.

~ ~ ~

 When their carriage finally disappeared from sight, he closed the door and sighed in relief. “Now, I can have quiet,” Fratelli said, “…and peace.”
However, his stomach began churning, uneasy from that last, quick drink of wine. Not yet going upstairs, he strolled into the parlor where he blew out the only candlelight, signaling that all in this house were asleep- and thus unavailable. Cardinal Fratelli realized he was never quite unavailable. The rigors of his office called at all hours. Even in the late night, someone could need him. A widow could knock at his door, a prisoner flee to his cathedral or a random penitent appear. Indeed, he could be summoned to give some poor soul final anointing…He was constantly on guard against these things.
“Oh Lord, how can the servant expect rest when he was made for work?” he asked the darkness. No one answered. He spoke again.
“Your Eminence,” a voice suddenly said, “Who are you talking to?”
“Oh Rodrigo,” he exclaimed, seeing a white-robed figure perch on the staircase, “I was just conversing with my Lord.”
“Let me know if he ever talks back,” the priest sneered. He didn’t mean to be rude and was just tired. Cardinal Fratelli hid his irritation. He approached Father Rodrigo, put an arm around him and said, “Let us retire. The morning will not be long, my stomach hurts… and now my head hurts.”

Monday, April 1, 2013

A Frustrating Day for Cardinal Fratelli (part I)

Early in the morning, Cardinal Fratelli woke up. Still yawning, he rose, washed, opened the shutters to let sunlight in and dressed. Immediately, he noticed a hole in one of his red, silken socks.
“Oh no…” he muttered, casting the “ruined” sock aside.
Standing, Fratelli hopped to his dresser drawer where he searched for another sock. There were no other socks there. Moreso, Dina just took all his dirty socks to be washed. Fratelli grumbled, retrieved the discarded sock then put it on. He hoped the little hole wouldn’t get bigger.
When Father Rodrigo knocked on the door, Fratelli came and followed him into the chapel for morning-prayer. Despite the early hour, they found it easy to concentrate and chant their praises:
Come let us sing to the Lord…and shout with joy to the Rock, who saves us…”
After the prayers were finished, Fratelli emerged first from the chapel. Already, the smell of breakfast cooking wafted into his nostrils. Now, the cardinal usually celebrated Mass at the cathedral most mornings but it was Wednesday and he would not go to the cathedral, yet would have his own, private Mass later. As the others walked off to the cathedral, Fratelli heard bells chime. Happily, he smiled because this meant he would be first to arrive to breakfast, the smell of which was by now, driving him nearly mad!
Perhaps too readily, Cardinal Fratelli strode into the dining-room and sat down. Seeing Dina just setting down a stick of butter, he asked:
“Is it ready yet?”
“No, not yet, Your Eminence,” Dina replied.
“Oh, please make it soon,” Fratelli moaned, “ I am simply famished!”
The housemaid only laughed at him.
When Dina brought back a plate of grape jelly, the cardinal absentmindedly dipped a finger in it to have a small taste. But, she had seen him!
“Your Eminence!”
“Oh, I’m sorry,” he said.
She shook her head then walked off. The rest of breakfast needed preparing and she couldn’t bother herself with the impulsive cardinal.
Fratelli sat there, restless and hungry for an hour. When the others returned from Mass, Dina finally laid out their meal: Eggs, spinach, hard toast and ham. With an austere gesture, Fratelli blessed the food then eagerly helped himself. When Dina poured his tea, he thanked her.
“Why don’t you join us?” he added. 
“No, Your Eminence, I’ve still much to do,” Dina said.
Fratelli frowned, feeling bad for her. Yet, Dina liked to work. He understood it was a simple thing that brought her happiness.  
Finishing his second cup of tea, Fratelli excused himself. He spent most of the morning in his office, reading documents, writing letters, signing documents. As noon sun climbed high and poured through the office window, Fratelli leaned in his chair and rested. Even though he expected an audience soon with some prominent people of Lucca, maybe he could steal a nap? Tiredly, he eyed the large, blue-coated book he’d recently began reading and for a moment, rested his head on it. Very soon, he drifted off to sleep.

~ ~ ~

After waking, Cardinal Fratelli helped himself to hot tea, grapes, rolled prosciutto and bread-sticks. Munching, he longingly looked out the window. Many birds flew by. He worked a little more in the office, grew bored with the blue book and set it aside. It was time for afternoon Mass anyway. Father Rodrigo came and fetched his green vestments. They were not his favorite vestments, the cloth was rather old and crinkly, feeling course against his hands. Yet he said nothing. Halfway through the initial prayers, one of the candles flickered and died out. He stopped speaking and stared at it.
Rodrigo patiently waited. Eventually the cardinal continued but he couldn't resist peering at that silly candle, wanting to relight it. It detracted him throughout the entire Mass.
Just as Fratelli removed his vestments and strode from the chapel, Dina met him.
"Sergio Ricollina and his family are waiting for you," she said.
Can't I have a minute to myself? the cardinal mused.

~ ~ ~

Now, Sergio and Julia Riccollina had a daughter named Veronica. She arrived to the audience late. Having long, dark-brown hair and bright, blue eyes, she was one of Lucca’s loveliest women- and it was no secret she sought for a husband. Sergio Riccollina proudly smiled as she entered the room. How he cherished his dearest daughter, clad in a blue dress that hugged her figure, smiling radiantly.
“It is an honor to meet you, Your Eminence,” she began in a rehearsed tone.
“You as well,” Fratelli answered.
The previous conversation was forgotten as Veronica sat in a chair beside her parents. Happy to have all the attention, she continued speaking:
“Oh, how glad I am to see Lucca’s beautiful cathedral! Maybe I can come there by myself some time and pray?”
“Yes anytime,” Fratelli answered.
She kept looking over at him and by now, he grew rather uncomfortable. When she winked at him, fluttering her dark eyelashes, the cardinal stood up and walked to the window.
“Maybe it is time for you to be leaving?” he asked.
“Not yet,” said Sergio, “It is time for a glass of wine.”
It was about supper time… Anxiously, Fratelli removed his red skullcap and groaned. On the way towards the kitchen, he stopped in his private chapel. Bowing before the altar, he spoke:
"Oh Lord, keep me from being irritable this evening. Give me peace. St Joseph, most kind, pray for me, that I remain pure in heart."
He crossed himself delicately then left. Supper was already waiting for him, roasted lamb with squash ravioli and greens. Sergio stood when the cardinal entered. But Fratelli was too occupied with how delicious it all smelled- and avoiding Veronica's glance. Caught in a reverie, he almost passed his seat.
"Your Eminence," Dina sighed as she helped him to his place.
"I am sorry" Fratelli replied, "It has been awhile since I ate..."