Maria is solicited
Chapter 18 The Solicitation
Reverend Mother Consuelo Sanchez
On behalf of the King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella the Monarchy hereby confirms your appointment as Chief Administrator of the Convent and Orphanage at San Tomas in Segovia. The effective date for investiture is 1 February 1493 in the year of our lord. Congratulations on your selection and appointment.
Dominic Velazquez, First Secretary
The fall faded into winter and winter became spring. In May, Reverend Mother Sanchez was transferred to the Convent and Orphanage at San Tomas at Segovia. She brought along Hilda, Maria and Benvolio. The last few months had been hectic, with little opportunity for the two to be alone together. When they did speak, it was for the briefest of interludes and Benvolio sensed a cooling in their relationship. On the trip to Madrid, they finally had a chance for a private conversation while riding together on the livery filled with baggage and personal belongings. On the road, he reached for her hand. “I missed you Maria….It seems like forever since we were together.”
“Meeting in the storage room was fraught with risk.”
“Do you remember our last conversation?”
“Somewhat.” She kept her gazed fixed on the passing scenery.
“I asked you to marry me. Have things changed?”
“I was drunk.”
“I see you’re still wearing my chain around your neck.”
“For safekeeping; until I decide.”
“I haven’t made up my mind about you, Benvolio. Don’t hold me to promises made in a moment of weakness. I’m letting our relationship simmer on the back of the stove.”
“Now there's a real endorsement of your love.” Hurt, he couldn’t keep the edge from his voice.
“It’s an endorsement of why we’re here. I’ll not put it in jeopardy by sneaking into your bed every night.
"I wasn't expecting you, every night."
"You’re just going to have to wait,” she said dismissively. “If you get bored, there’s always your old girlfriend.”
“When are you going to quit harping on that? I only said it to chill the bandits. Remember? They were about to kill me and God knows what they intended for you.”
“Well, they weren’t the only ones chilled.”
“There’s no other woman, Maria.”
“So you say, but I’ll not tolerate a man that whores around and brings disgrace to his family.”
“What will it take to convince you of my fidelity?”
“...Time and good behavior, Benvolio. Time and good behavior.”
One night shortly after the move, when things started to settle down, Benvolio was once again startled awake in the early morning hours. He was living now in a small shack next to the stable.
“Wake up,” the voice whispered.
“I’m awake,” he answered.
“I’ve a note for you to deliver.”
“I knew there must be some official explanation for your visit.”
“Don’t be such a gloomy grouch.”
“Have you made up your mind about me?”
“Not yet, however, I’ve decided to grant you an interview.”
“…Why an interview?”
“So you can understand me better.”
She kissed him reaching her hand beneath the blanket. His desire stirred as she found it.
“You may begin the questioning.” She slipped off her robe and crawled beneath the blanket. He began to knead her breasts.
“Have you been drinking again?”
“I’ll have you know I’m completely sober.”
“Have you considered my proposal?”
She began stroking his manhood. “Ask it again so I can recall,” she teased.
His arms drew her close, his hands massaging her shoulders.
“Will you marry me Maria?”
“First, you must convince me of your love.”
She positioned herself on top and spread. His mother’s wedding band hung down from the chain between her breasts swinging back and forth. She tugged and guided him into the folds of her womanhood. Groaning she let the muscled staff slip fully inside.
“Can I take that for a ‘yes?’”
“First you must wear down my defenses. Don’t you know anything about proposals?”
He began to stroke and she balanced placing her hands on his stomach. It was like riding a horse and her bosoms jiggled as his buttocks rose up and down.
“Smack!” His hand cropped her hip…
“Ouch!” she exclaimed…”What was that for?”
“I need to put you through your paces,” he replied. “,,,Smack!” He cropped the other.
“Yes,” she sighed, responding to his urging…”Through the paces...”
He took hold the hair cascading down about her shoulders. “Show me your cantor.”
“Like this?” she responded, raising and lowering her stomach.
“Yes! Now to the finish…show me your stride. …Smack!”
Taking her hips he began thrusting as she clung to him, his insistent voice exhorting, "Faster, Faster! To this she responded with ever greater exertions until at length, with nothing more to give, she could bear it no more. Maria crested, crying out, in words that were most unladylike. In a last gasp of passion she fell, collapsing her full weight atop him.
“I’m not finished yet,” he said, unsatisfied, rolling over on top. “Are you going to marry me or must we take another lap around the track?”
“She groaned as another orgasm swept across her.
“Will you?” he demanded, his face flushed, veins pulsing in his forehead.
“Yes, yes,” she answered.
“Say it to me,” he insisted, demanding that she speak the words.
“I’ll marry you, Benvolio.”
With that his girth swelled and began to splay. She trembled as the surcease filled her womb and still he rode her, unrelentingly, on and on, until the last drop of his desire was spent.
After her delivery Teresa left the Hermitage and went to the Convent at San Tomas. She might have stayed longer but the pain of giving up her child was acute. She knew that she had to break away and start life anew. She bid her friends adieu and gathering her few possessions walked with head held high to the waiting livery. Seated behind the reins was a large man with huge hands.
“Need some help sister?” he inquired.
She smiled and shook her head, throwing a canvas satchel into the bed of the cart. As she settled onto the bench the driver shook the reins and soon they were headed down the road.
“I’m Benvolio,” he said introducing himself. He was a big and swarthy man. His chin wore the stubble of a beard that looked as if he shaved with a dull knife. His nose appeared to have been broken once and had a lump. There was an unmistakable strength to his body but underneath there was also a gentleness that woman find compelling; however, it was his eyes that caught her attention… soft eyes that concealed more than they revealed… eyes that had seen pain but also sparkled with the joy of life.
”We have about a four hour trip ahead of us. For the most part the road is smooth but on the first leg it's potholed and a little bumpy.”
“I’m fine, Benvolio.” Teresa looked back over her shoulder and saw a huge hound bounding after them…
“Oh my goodness!” she exclaimed, “Bruno has gotten loose.” The mastiff closed with the livery and jumped up behind the bench. Teresa hugged him tearfully…”Bad Dog," she said, ”You knew you were supposed to stay!”
“I’m sure he will find forgiveness easier than it was getting permission.”
“What are we going to do?” she asked.
“Whatever you wish,” he answered, as the hound turned and began to licking his cheek.
She pulled back on Bruno’s collar. He’s very well behaved most of the time. I think he likes you.
"I have that effect on dogs; would that I could say the same for a certain woman who will go unnamed."
"She noted his comment and decided not to go there. "He’ll settle down in a moment."
Bruno sat down on the seat between them his tongue panting in and out. He seemed to thoroughly enjoy riding in the cart. How she loved that big huge adorable hound. He had been her constant companion through the days of waiting and the only bright spot in her life.
“So you have a girlfriend?”
“She has my heart.”
“What’s her name?”
“I’d rather not say…”
“You see…? She’s a novitiate and has pledged her love to God”
“I understand. Sorry I asked. So what are we going to do with Bruno?”
“I could always take him back on my next trip.”
As if in agreement Bruno nuzzled her face and licked her cheeks; then looked at Benvolio and made a "Hourr Hourr" noise.
“I guess that settles it,” said Benvolio.
The recent spring rains had coaxed the budding of leaves and the landscape was awash in hues of green. The fresh air and scenic countryside helped to lift the weight from Teresa’s heart. She looked over at the big man holding the reins There was something about him hidden from view; not a bad thing but a sense of mystery; as if he were more than he appeared in life.
“Where are you from, Benvolio?”
“The mountains," he answered, "to the East. I’m a Basque…”
“I’ve never seen the mountains up close, but I hope to someday…”
“They are beautiful and I miss them always, but especially this time of the year.”
“Are you employed by the convent?”
“Until recently it was the handyman in Avila. This past month I've been transferred to the San Tomas Convent and Orphanage at Segovia where I do all manner of odd jobs…driving is the most frequent, but I also do wood chopping and carpentry work.”
“Were you the one driving several months ago when a Novitiate named Maria delivered the posts?”
“Indeed I was…why do you ask?”
“Because she's an old friend and I was hoping to speak with her on a matter we discussed.”
“Well, she only delivered the posts on one occasion. Shortly after that she was appointed a school teacher, preparing the novitiates for their reading and writing examinations. Along with me, she’s been transferred to San Tomas.”
“That's wonderful news.”
“You’ll have plenty of opportunity to speak with her soon; as a matter of fact she doesn’t have a cell mate at the present time. I'm sure she would welcome your companionship.”
Teresa turned about patting the hound. ”What do you think Bruno, will Maria be glad to see me?”
Reverend Mother Sanchez opened the post from Brother Bernardo.
Dear Reverend Mother Sanchez,
I know the days must be hectic with your new appointment, however I want you to know that I'll be arriving in Segovia next week and hope you can afford me an accommodation. There’s much we can discuss and I hope to bring you up to date on all the developments in the Court. The Cardinal sends his regards.
Father Antonio Bernardo, first secretary
She smiled… It’s been two months, she thought to herself. I must make sure about the accommodation. Who will it be this time? Maybe Maria would be a good choice. She was married before coming here. Hilda said she ran away from her husband in France; now that has possibilities.
Sister Hilda poked her head into the classroom as Maria was finishing up for the day. ”The Reverend Mother wants to see you in her office.”
I’m coming.” Maria dropped the chalks into their box and stacked the slates…. ”won’t be but a minute." She straightened her habit and hastened to the RM’s office.
Hilda waited at the door. ”She’s here.”
“Send her right in.” the RM replied.
Maria had seen the Grand Lady and even spoken briefly on several occasions but this was her first real meeting. The Mother Reverend stood behind a large oak desk, her hands clasped behind her waist. Something about the older woman’s expression, set Maria on edge.
"You asked to see me?"
“Come in Maria," she said graciously, "and take a seat. “I've nothing but good reports on your work. We have twelve Novitiates ready to take the exams when I only anticipated half that number this year. You’re to be commended.”
“Thank you Reverend Mother. It's a pleasure to do the Lord’s work and return in small measure some of his many blessings.”
“I find your humility refreshing and I wish I didn’t have to be the bearer of bad tidings, but I have a letter from the Diocese that a man claiming to be your husband will soon be arriving from France.”
“Oh my Lord!” said Maria, covering her mouth. “Tell me this isn’t true.” ( I have no husband in France… she thought excitedly, that was only a cover story.)
“I wish it were otherwise… Our Bishop has received notification from the Magistrate's office In Marseilles. Your husband is on his way to get you.”
“This is terrible news.” Where is all this leading? Maria wondered…On the one hand she anticipated the answer and on the other dreaded hearing it.
“I see nothing in your application about your being married.”
“I wanted no record of my whereabouts; but I told Sister Hilda. My…my husband is a violent man.”
“And she reported it to the Dioceses as she’s required to do. It’s the law.”
“When will Gaston, be arriving?"
“I don’t know for sure; soon no doubt,” she replied. "It only says that he's on his way.”
“Must I return with him?”
“I’m afraid so. He's your husband. His claim has precedence over ours. He has every right to take you back."
“What am I to do?”
“I’m afraid you have little choice but to accompany him.”
“Dear Lord! Not that, I’ll do anything but that.”
“There are no lengths I’d not go; to avoid returning with him.”
“I hesitate to mention this possibility, however, since you're in such desperate straits.” She paused enjoying the cat and mouse game."
“Tell me, please tell me.”
“If you had an annulment. A special dispensation from the church, your husband would have no legal claim and we could send him away empty handed.”
“How do I obtain one?”
“They’re very expensive and normally only a recourse for the rich. Does your family have money?”
“We’re very poor.”
“Then I’m afraid you must return...unless…” Her gaze shifted...
“I shudder to even bring it up.”
“There’s a sympathetic official of the church that we’ve used in the past... in cases such as yours,"
“He's provided us, on occasion, with the needed document.”
“But I have no money.”
“This Priest accepts payment in another coin.”
“I don’t understand." She paused and her eyes got wide, "No, you couldn't be implying that?”
“Yes my child. That’s exactly what I’m implying. He’ll demand a woman’s favor.”
“I can purchase a dispensation, using my body?”
“I said it was a means. I wouldn't have brought it up, had you not insisted.”
“But that’s a whore’s wage.”
“That’s a very strong word, Maria. We’re women in a man’s world and it’s not like you’re completely innocent or that your virtue is still intact.”
“Come now! We’re all whores in one sense or another. We perform the services that are demanded of us. Some do it in the home, some on the streets and yes, forgive me Lord, some even in the service of Almighty God.”
“Goodness gracious, Mother, what are you saying?”
“A woman does as she must and our Blessed Savior forgives as he did the prostitute about to be stoned.“
“What will people think of me?”
“If that’s your concern, nobody will ever know. Nobody will want to know, and I can assure you that there will be nobody around here who will cast the first stone.”
“I could never live with myself.”
“Then pack your bags.”
“He will beat me and force me to sleep with the pigs.”
She struggled in the chair, pretending to be distraught, trying to reconcile the two terrible choices. ”Very well,” she said at last, with defeat in her voice, “It looks like I must accept the lesser of two evils.”
“Then I'll make the necessary arrangements.” The RM put her arm about Maria’s shoulder, satisfaction shining in her eyes.
“Exactly what must I do?”
“Lay with the Father as you did your husband.”
“But I don’t know him…”
“A man is a man. The variations from one to the next are hardly worth mentioning.”
“What is he like?”
“He’s corrupt, but otherwise a handsome and kindly man, but I must warn you.”
“That you must see he gets paid a fair wage.”
“What do you mean?”
“Make it an enjoyable experience.”
“Pretend that you like it.”
“You want me to sell my honor and pretend that I like it?”
“That’s the agreement.”
“What would you do?”
“There are pigs and there are pigs,” gestured the RM with a shrug.
“You think I should?”
“I thought you'd already made your decision.”
Maria left the office, trying to look distraught instead of angry. Hilda looked away, refusing eye contact. She knows, Maria thought to herself. I wonder how many others have been subjected to what I just went through. She hastened down the long winding staircase that led four stories to the antechamber below. Her heels clicked across the marble floor leading to the doorway. Stepping outside she saw Benvolio leading a cart and pony towards the stable. She caught his eye and nodded urgently. Pretending not to notice he continued leading the pony down the cobblestone street. Maria followed discreetly until he turned into the barn. Making sure she wasn’t watched she darted into a stall. He casually looked over as he unbridled the traces.
“Is something bothering you?"
"You won’t believe it!"
"What’s happened?” he inquired softly, casting about to make sure they were alone.
“I just got propositioned by the RM to sleep with a Priest.”
“When’s the happy occasion,” he asked without mirth, an anger blazing in his eyes.
“Not for a few days…"
“How was it arranged?”
“Just as I suspected….the RM is pimping for the Church.”
“What do you intend to do?"
“I’ll draft a letter to Ricardo. We’ll catch them in the act!”
“I forbid it…”
“This is what I came to find out. This is the proof we’re searching for.”
“Using you as the bait, I presume?”
“With you and my brother at hand what have I to fear?”
“The unanticipated, My Dear. It mocks the best of plans.”
“...lf I do my part, and you do yours; this will not be all that difficult.”
“Are you sure there isn’t another way… I’m certain Ricardo will be as unwilling with this as I am.”
“Unless you have a better idea…”
“I refuse complicity in this decision…I'd refuse to play any role what-so-ever... if I thought you’d listen.”
“You're starting to understand me better all the time."
"Perhaps, with a few more interviews…" he said with a wry smile.
"Can't you ever be serious? Now pay attention. Tonight I’ll drop a post from my window…after dark you be waiting in the shadows and see it gets delivered.“
“Your brother is going to kill me, if I don’t shoot myself first.”
“This will work out fine. After dark, beneath my window…?”
“That part is absolutely clear. Oh, I’ve got one more thing…. Guess who I just brought in from the Hermitage?”
“Teresa is here?”
“More than here, she’s moved into your cell; you have a new living companion.”