The courier walked away and left Vincente staring down at the three crossed swords of the Innocente seal pressed into the red wax seal on the letter. November blew a chill down the cobblestone street outside, lined with student dorms stacked one on top of the other. The gray sky made the red roofs of Vildeo seem dull, students pulled their coats tight around them as they hurried to classes. The cold creeped around Vincente’s bare hands, cutting through his shirt in his state of half-dress.
“Vincente, what is it?” Victoria asked, looking over her shoulder from the nook the kitchen sat in. The kettle on the wood stove steamed, two cups sat on the counter in front of her. Despite the morning hour, her apron was already stained and dirtied.
Vincente turned back inside, dropping the letter on the unsteady parlor table. He pulled out a chair and stood there, considering the consequences of leaving the letter unopened when he already knew what was written within. The sweet smell of chamomile and lavender wafted from a fresh cup of tea as Victoria set it down in front of him. She held her own in one hand and pulled the second chair to the same side of the table and sat down.
Victoria turned the envelope over in her hands. She rested it against Vincente’s arm. “Waiting isn’t going to make it better,” she said softly.
He sighed and tore open the wax seal. He pulled out a sheet of parchment stained in black ink, as though someone cried over it.
Papa Leone passed the night of October twentieth. I regret that you could not be there at his passing. You were in his thoughts in his final moments, and he claimed to see many great things for you in the future. I assure you that he died comfortable and content, surrounded by his family and friends.
I understand that exams will not be over in time for the funeral, but you must be present when his will is discussed in a month. He has left some possessions for you and your brother and sister. You are promised you a set of medical encyclopedias I was not aware he had. Papa is so full of surprises, even now. Your father would also like to discuss the inheritance with you, as it concerns something important bypassing Cassius and going to you on Papa’s wish.
I hope this letter finds you well, and know how hard it is for you to be far from us at this time. Your grandfather is proud of your ambition and will to succeed, and did not blame you for being absent. His last words about you were proud as any I had heard. He calls you a noble, charitable man as none he could himself hope to raise.
I miss you, my dearest son, I’m sure your brother and sister miss you as well. Also, I have been running low on medicine, as we have not had time to make it out to my doctor in Revona with the funeral proceedings, please bring some with you when you come. You will save your dear mother terrible pain. Please arrive by the tenth of December. I look forward to seeing you again soon.
With much love,
Delilah Cavalle Innocente
He dropped the letter on the table, resting his head in his hands and staring at the wood grain. Tears welled up in his eyes. His loose hair fell around his head, a tangled mess.
Victoria squeezed his shoulder. “We knew this was coming, Vin.”
Vincente shook his head and wiped the tears away from his eyes, sitting back in his chair. He looked up at the ceiling and swallowed hard. “I know.”
“Vin, drink your tea. It will help you feel better.” She watched him until he took a sip.
She let the quiet continue as long as he wanted, offering a comforting hand while he choked back tears. Wordlessly, he stood up and retreated to his room. Victoria picked up the letter and read it quickly before folding it and tucking it into the pocket of her dress. She stood and stared at the two cups on the table, listening to the sounds on the street and in the flats above her.
She started at the sound of a loud crash from the back bedrooms. “Vincente?” she called, already running for his bedchamber door. She tried the doorknob, pushing against the locked door, “Vincente, let me in!”
The deadbolt clicked open and Victoria stumbled in. She looked around the room, taking in the overturned washbasin and shattered standing mirror. Blood smeared from the point of impact. Vincente sat against the foot of his bed, knees pulled in. His shoulders shook with quiet sobs and his lacerated knuckles dripped blood onto the wooden floor.
“Maybe you should stay home today, Vincente,” she said. Victoria picked her way around the shattered glass to sit down next to him.
He didn’t respond, but wiped tears away from his eyes with his uninjured hand. He stared despondently at his shattered reflection in the mirror.
“I’ll run down to the Institute and let your professors know what’s happened,” Victoria draped an arm over his shoulders, “you need some time.”
He nodded, burying his face in his arms and biting back another sob.