I padded down
the stairs, my feet numb against the cold cement. It truly is
improper to be without foot wear, but I preferred to risk being
caught under-clothed than having to listen to the haunting echo of
bed shoes. I walked slowly and heavily, my belly peaked over the edge
of each step precariously, as if preparing to dive forward, tottering
on the edge of a cliff. The walk was uncomfortable in the cold
castle, but my need for food outweighed my longing for my warm bed.
I held out my candle and went in search of the night time servant. There had to be one on duty, pregnancies were difficult enough with servants let alone without them. I entered the kitchen and looked around. The candle cast a comforting glow across the room, and the steel of the knives and bowls glinted back at me, stars in the sky that was my kitchen.
Dian slid out from the corners, "whatever could be keeping you
up at night?"
Dian looked lovely, despite her disgruntled appearance. She was in her bedclothes, her nightgown hung from her shoulders thinly. Her hair was down and messy, her skin was covered in a fine sheen of sweat, despite the frigidity of the air, and she wore no makeup. It was something in the way that she carried herself, that really spoke of beauty, she showed no modesty. Dian held her head tall, almost a man in her composure. She made no attempt to cover herself, even as the male servant came to attend to us. He couldn't keep his eyes off of her, his eyes drew the lines of her body, his shoulders were hunched with the gracelessness of absolute servitude. I cringed involuntarily, my mind strayed to thoughts of what she had just been doing. My Henry laid in her chambers as we spoke, unsatisfied by my queer looks. Dian satisfied him, her, no better than a common milkmaid! Her eyes met mine, shameless and proud. It was almost too much to bear, but I had to hold her gaze. It was a game, one of politics and society. To break contact was to lose face in the eyes of one's friends, and more importantly one's enemies. Even in the solitude of my own kitchen I continued to play.
I knew, of course, what my dear husband was doing. And Dian knew that I did not remain ignorant on the matter. But we musn't let on that either of us understands anything more than the simplest of conversation. We are women, therefore we are stupid. She is here by chance, and I am not to question it.
That's not to
say that our tongues do not remain sharp. We insult without truly
"The baby is kicking, hard and true. He's already a King, but he demands food." A stab at her lack of royalty, she will never be Queen while this fetus is already a King in his weak, dependable state. Dian doesn't appear to react, but I can see her eyes flicker slightly and her hands stretch and clench as if preparing for a fight.
must be brave You don't quite look up to childbirth." She is
speaking of my figure, thin and bony. She is reminding me that Henry
belongs to her. "I'm sure he'll inherit your strong cheekbones,
very desirable in a man." The rest she left unsaid: but
certainly not desirable in a woman.
The small talk scalded, but we smiled and laughed merrily. We are the best of friends, nobody would
dare suggest otherwise. The servant had left to tend to Dian's needs. Dian with her kind brown eyes and soft voice, so much more appealing for a Queen than my plain face and dark skin.
I walked over to the counter to attend to my own hungers. An apple looked appealing, its roundness reminded me of my own. I grabbed a knife to slice it. Dian lifts a pastry to her lips. My finger runs over the cool steel, how easy it would be to end it right here. The blade was sharp and new, it would pierce her flesh with ease. I could end my own pain, my husband would be mine again, and mine alone. The people of France would love me when there was nothing better to compare me to. She would scream once, and then it would be over with. In death all of her faux warmth would abandone her. A few steps is all it would take to travel over to where she sat with such enviable grace.
Oh, how I long to be as graceful as she is. She always appears kind, even while plotting. It must be her blood, smooth and French running through her veins.
Blood. My own, coarse and Italian has spilled itself onto the knife. I didn't even feel the cut. It glistens, blue in breeding but red in colour, on the blade. I brought my finger to my mouth, to clean it, and the metallic taste covers my tongue. I could not kill her, I love her as much as the rest of them do. I am not immune to her poisonous charm.
"My dear," Dian examined my clothes critically, "red is not your colour." Her voice remained kind, and I did not sense any sort of patronizing tone.
I wanted to glare back and express my hated. I wanted to burn her with my eyes, leave her naked under my gaze. It was the sincerity in her voice that stopped me from doing so. I could only bow my head and blush. "What is my colour?" I want to know what will please her. The Queen of France is reduced to a simpering child begging for praise.
"Black would look lovely on you, darling Catherine." Black. The irony of it bites me, I would look terrible in black and she knows it. But there's something behind it. It is the colour of widows and spinsters, the colour of the husbandless and childless.
I was neither husbandless nor childless. But in a way I was both, and she could see it. My husband did not belong to me and my child will be hated. Dian took my hand in hers, she will comfort me in my grief, and I could not answer back. Heat raged through me, how dare she? Her soft eyes bore into my mine. It was this diplomacy that had won the French, that had subtly turned them against me. I was Italian, and I had the temper that came with it. I was decisive, strong and loud. Dian was soft, patient and quiet. They could never love me, and I could never love them as I loved the people of
Florence, despite the wrongs they did me.
I must break free from this. "No, I don't think that black suits me. I prefer red." I lace disgust into my voice, I want her to understand my hatred. Dian looked prettily shocked, though I know she is unperturbed, and the recently returned manservant stared at me in horror. He shudders at the sound of my voice, to him this is another display of my terror. I am a tyrant, I am a witch. He goes to comfort Dian, who appears to be on the brink of tears.
Yes, go to her, go to your little whore.
I prepared to
leave, and as an after thought took the knife with me. I stormed out
quite dramatically, nightdress whirling and knife gleaming in the
And when my Henry died years later, I wore my black with pride. But I painted all of the rooms in the castle white.
She knew what it meant.
A/N: I wrote this after learning about her in French class. I found it interesting. Harsh constructive critisism is welcome. :D