Like every morning since her husband died, she opened her little shop, a clean shirt in her back, her gray hair neatly tied in a bun, the apron around her hips. Micheletto watched her from the early morning shadows, his body still tingling from Augustino's embrace, his mouth remembering his kisses. He didn't belong to Forlì anymore, but somehow, this trip seemed like a homecoming.
And it hurt beyond measure...
He should be wandering around Sforza's castle, his duty was at the side of His Eminence, watching his back and giving value to his promise. The weight of his self-imposed burden was smothering him, his feelings were strangling him, his shame was scourging him, and nothing inside him seemed to fit as nicely as the day before. He didn't know if he loved Augustino anymore, his devotion to the Cardinal seemed somehow misplaced, his mother's fantasies about his doctor son encumbered him so much he couldn't bear the sight of her eyes.
Micheletto stumbled towards his mama's place, he didn't know why, he failed to find a reason to do otherwise. The most powerful reason was that his hands were sullied with his husband's blood, and Micheletto had many reasons to override that unsettling qualm. She was better without him.
She was placing a chair next to a table, getting all ready to cater her early morning costumers, hard working people, decent folks. People who would gladly tear her son apart if he didn't devoted his life conceal his love and his hurt. They were the reason behind his departure, he couldn't afford to left his mother without means. She saw him, it was evident that behind her eyes was a conflicting and unsettling quagmire. She was deliriously happy of seeing him again, she was obviously worried of seeing him again.
“Mama,” Micheletto said, kissing her aged brow.
He can play her game, too. Micheletto behaved just like he did when he was a teenager and started his late excursions through the cemetery: he got rid of his mantle, picked up the first table that came at hand and placed it in its proper place. For the time being, he was not an assassin, nor a sodomite, nor a student. He was just a son helping his mother.
That gave her time to sort her feelings, because she started to talk about the neighbors, their simple, run-of-the-mill life. Their normal lives. She would never lose hope her boy will have a plain, boring, normal life. Micheletto was sure that's why she couldn't keep quiet about the neighbors.
“Come, come, my sweet child,” she said when they finished setting the place. “You are so thin. Your doctore should feed you better.”
She put a glass of beer in front of him, along with the best day-old bread. Micheletto broke the bread, the crumb was still soft, it taste just like the bread of his youth days. Micheletto could swear this bread was made by Violetta's father. The idea of Augustino and Violetta enraged him, hurt him. He was heartbroken, that was the truth. He should expect something like that, after all, he abandoned Augustino; but Augustino waited for him, he could get married long ago. Augustino was getting married out of spite, Violeta could never make him happy and that made Micheletto's hand burn with the need of a knife; but Augustino rejected him for the wrong reasons, and that made Micheletto feel the need to snap his god-damned neck.
Micheletto knew he was a mess, even before this happened.
“...a nice person, your doctore,” his mother kept talking, “a little young, but rich boys had time to study, they are not like my boy, my hard-working boy,” his mother took his free hand and placed a kiss on the tip of his fingers. “You work hard to pay your books, I can see it.”
Micheletto withdrew his hand, embarrassed that his mother kissed a hand which had sinned so much. She patted his ginger head and went to the stove where the stew was bubbling; she surely made it yesterday, a silent testament that hope springs eternal. She had hoped to see him again, and Micheletto felt like the scum of Earth, his mother loved him and he couldn't repay that love. She stirred the pot, commenting on the strange behavior of His Eminence.
Cesare Borgia was strange, even Micheletto was not sure on how to assay his actions. Working for him was good, challenging and amusing, but sometimes it seemed like His Eminence was flirting with his assassin. Sometimes Micheletto felt like he was just an extension of his arm and a way to vent his frustrations. Cesare Borgia could never love him, women are his thing, but Micheletto still had the hots for him and his charming, twisted mind. Micheletto was a madman for clinging to that burning nail.
His mother placed a couple of dishes filled to the brim with her famous bean stew. A simple dish, one she would never stop cooking; it was one of the first food he tasted when he was a child. Micheletto felt the lump in his throat immediately.
“Your father loved this stew as much as you do,” his mother said, sitting herself by his side in the kitchen bench.
The sad truth was that Micheletto could never take another bit of that stew anymore. It tasted like nights of poverty, like days of work, like a happy family sharing their fatigue and their labor. He destroyed everything that humble stew mean, and if he explain it he would lose the last thing important in his life. His mama would hate him if she ever discover who tore her husband from her side.
“Mama,” Micheletto whispered, his hand took his mother’s arm.
Micheletto could read her dismay, it was there for all the world to see; he had no words to calm her, because right now his world was crumbling around him, the shattered remains of his former life were slashing his insides to the point he would rather turn himself to the mob to end this pain. There was only one place safe enough for him and his arms around the his mother’s waist were as close as he could get there.
“What is it, my dear boy?” She asked him, rubbing his shoulder blades with loving care. “Tell it to mama.”
“It hurts...” Micheletto said, he couldn't hold the tears any longer. “Life hurts.”
She asked no more, she knew her boy and those words could be written with his own blood because they should have cost him that much. Her hand took her apron and used it to wipe his silent tears, as she held him tight against her bosom.
Customers could wait, her boy needed her right now...