Given his prestige, if he couldnt restore our family name I didnt know how she expected me to. Yet she seemed convinced of my destiny, and every month had me dress in my uncomfortable ducal finery and pose for a new portrait, which was then copied into miniatures and dispatched to all the foreign princes who wanted to marry me. I was still too young for wedlock, but she left me no doubt shed already selected the cathedral, the number of ladies who would attend me
All of a sudden, my stomach clenched. I dropped my hands to my belly, feeling an unexpected pain. My surroundings distorted, as if the palazzo had plunged underwater. Nausea turned my mouth sour. I came to my feet blindly, hearing my chair crash over. A terrifying darkness overcame me. I felt my mouth open in a soundless scream as the darkness widened like a vast ink stain, swallowing everything around me. I was no longer in the gallery arguing with my aunt; instead, I stood in a desolate place, powerless against a force that seemed to well up from deep inside me . . .
I stand unseen, alone among strangers. They are weeping. I see tears slip down their faces, though I cant hear their laments. Before me is a curtained bed, draped in black. I know at once something horrible lies upon it, something I should not see. I try to stay back but my feet move me toward it with the slow certainty of a nightmare, compelling me to reach out a spotted, bloated hand I do not recognize as my own, part the curtains, and reveal
Dio Mio, no! My cry wrenched from me. I felt my aunt holding me, the frantic caress of her hand on my brow. I had a terrible stomachache and lay sprawled on the floor, my embroidery and tangled yarns strewn beside me.
Caterina, my child, my aunt said. Please, not the fever again . . .
As the strange sensation of having left my own body began to fade, I forced myself to sit up. I dont think its the fever, I said. I saw something: a man, lying dead on a bed. He was so real, Zia . . . it scared me.
She stared at me. Then she whispered, Una visione, as if it was something shed long feared. She gave me a fragile smile, reaching out to help me to my feet. Come, thats enough for today. Let us go take that walk, si? Tomorrow well visit the Maestro. Hell know what to do.
Excerpted from The Confessions of Catherine de Medici by C. W. Gortner Copyright © 2010 by C. W. Gortner. Excerpted by permission of Ballantine Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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