That night Catherine lay wide awake in her quarters, the soft coverlet caressing her body. The young queen kept it close to her in a vain attempt to compensate for the lack of genuine love and affection that had begun to plague her life. At times like these Catherine would close her eyes and see herself with Henry in the same bed, with the same sheets, their bodies intertwined in a tender romantic passion. For a few blissful moments a genuine smile would grace her face and a ripple of happiness would glide through her spine, permeate her lungs like oxygen and settle in her heart. Then she would open her eyes only to find that her hand had been dancing through the delicate fabric of her favorite bedspread instead of Henry's tousled hair. And that ripple of happiness that had settled in was now an aching void which had sucked her heart dry of whatever joy she still had.
Catherine winced and a tear ran down her cheek. To the outside world, the world beyond the court's hypocrisy, she was the heiress to the Medici fortune, 'duchessina' now Queen consort of one of the greatest countries in all of Christendom. But if one would peel off the glittery surface, one would expose royalty for what it was – deprived of anything genuine. Her crown had been bought off by her family's riches, but it demanded too high a price from her personally. A price which had now left her emotionally bankrupt. She had been flung into a game of royal chess in which she, being who she was, was supposed to make love in order to sire heirs for the sake of the House of Valois. Catherine's eyes welled up once more. "Making love" had long been obsolete in her life, for "love" was obsolete. Each time Henry visited her chambers he did so not out of his love for her, but because of his duty to his line. Instead of caressing her, he would touch her. Instead of taking his time to kiss her with tenderness and run his fingers through her hair, he would look at her with eyes that lacked yearning. It was shameful and insulting to call that "making love". No matter how hard she tried to present herself as ever more desirable and tempting, he would never take notice of it and acknowledge her beauty and love. Yes, she still loved him. But his failure to reciprocate that was agonizing.
He would never love her the way Ippolito did. When she was in Rome, those stolen moments in the library of the palazzo with her beloved made her feel whole and blessed, feelings that she had long been denied. It was then that she realized what true love felt like. It was liberating, free and gracious. It showed you that life, however cruel and belittling it can be, was also beautiful and worthy of a second chance. Ippolito was ready to give up everything just to be hers. No other man was ready to love her without insurance while her beloved was willing to risk his insurance to be at her side. Alas, true love was not sought in their world, which made it even more precious to people like her. Sacred even.
Catherine turned around so that her face would face the door to her chamber. Even after years of hollowness, she still hoped to see Henry open the door and walk in with longing and love in his eyes. She still hoped for him to come to her bed, stroke her hair and caress her face and then kiss her leaving the taste of passion on her lips. She still hoped for them to make love, real and genuine love, the likes of which wasn't bound by any contracts or political needs. The kind of love that came from their hearts and made their bodies one, and their souls – unshackled by emptiness. But hope and her stolen dreams were the only mementos she still had. They both made her whole and ripped her into pieces.
Catherine's eyelids were heavy with fatigue. She snuggled her coverlet closer, stroking it gently. Before she succumbed to slumber, she saw the door open. Perhaps there was still hope …