by sarAdora ~~~~~~~~~~
A devout and practicing Catholic, Giancarlo was not surprised to see the parish priest in his living room when he returned home one early evening. He greeted the good Father with a sincere handshake and a genuine smile.
"Always good to see you, Padre. I hope you are staying for dinner."
"Thank you, my son. Your mother has already graciously invited me."
"Good, good," Giancarlo beamed at his mother, surprised at her invitation. Mama Batali was also a devout Catholic but one who didn't care for this new priest - "new" being a relative term - the priest had been in their church for less than two years having replaced the one Mama Batali had known all her life. To say that she didn't like this priest was putting it mildly; if lightning should happen to strike the hapless man, she would have merely arched a delicate brow.
"Your marriage is imminent," the priest said as preface to the rest of his remarks when they were seated for dinner. "It is time for you and your intended to discuss the sacrament of marriage and receive instruction on what is expected of you when we celebrate this holy union. Can I expect to see you and Francesca Minucci before the end of the week?" he asked.
"Ovviamente, Of course," Giancarlo agreed. "Tell me when it is convenient and Francesca and I will be there."
"It takes more than one discussion, as you know," the priest said in the tone of authority he used when he sought to elevate himself in the Godfather's presence.
"You'll be lucky to see Francesca once," Mama Batali smiled sweetly, her near contempt for the priest rising with her words.
"Madre..." Giancarlo arched a brow, making his mother smile as she remembered what that gesture meant when her husband had been alive.
"I will expect both of you to cleanse your souls through confession," the priest added, ignoring Mama Batali. "And accept Communion, of course."
Mama Batali arched her own brow, wondering how Giancarlo was going to force Francesca, the non-believer, into doing that.
Forgetting that the Godfather's mother had known him when he was a lot younger and the scourge of the neighborhood, he added. "It would be a nice gesture if you did the same, Signora Batali," he said with respect.
"You are eating at my table," she responded very softly as she rose to her feet. "Be happy you are not being poisoned."
"Why do we have to meet with the priest?" Francesca asked when they met for lunch the next day. "Isn't it enough that I have agreed to be married in the church?"
"We will meet with the priest," Giancarlo said firmly. "You will listen to what he has to say and you will be respectful. You will do this to please me, bambina."
Francesca didn't respond to his words, guiding her fork to his plate as she helped herself to the tasty tidbits in his antipasto.
"You will please me, bambina?" he asked softly, his hand halting hers.
"Is there something about me that does *not* please you, Padre del Dio?" she asked, her eyes wide as she smiled.
"Everything about you pleases me," he chuckled, using his fingers to slip those tasty tidbits between her lips before leaning over to brush them with his own.
"Be respectful," Giancarlo warned her again when they entered the priest's office.
"If he is respectful to me, I shall respect him in turn."
"He is a man of the cloth; he deserves your respect, regardless."
"He is a man," Francesca murmured. "Respect is not a right; it must be earned."
She sat quietly while the priest lectured them, her eyes staring into the priest's making the man uneasy. He was not unaware of the status Francesca would have as the Godfather's wife, but he was also comforted that the Godfather was a devout Catholic and would expect correct decorum from his future bride.
So he pushed the envelope...
"You will come to confession," he told her. "I will hear it as soon as possible."
"No. I have nothing to confess."
"We all have something to confess," the priest laughed softly. "And... if it is as you say... then your penance will be tolerable. You will have absolution."
"Who are *you* to give me penance?" Francesca asked quietly.
"Bambina..." Giancarlo warned.
"I have nothing to confess. If I had done something worthy of confession, I would make my peace with God by myself; I don't need an intermediary."
"If you do not go to confession, I cannot perform the ceremony," the priest said and rose to his feet.
"Excellent!" Francesca smiled. "I don't like you and I don't want you to perform it."
"She will go to confession," Giancarlo practically snarled as he grabbed her around the waist. "She will do it now!"
In moments, Francesca had been thrust into the confessional, Giancarlo outside the door so she wouldn't escape. The priest sat on the other side of the slatted window waiting for her to speak. He waited a long time.
"If you don't speak, I will tell Don Batali..." he threatened.
"Listen and listen well, you evil man!" Francesca hissed and told him things he didn't want to know, things he thought she had forgotten about her youth... things about him...
He said nothing when she finished her discourse.
"Was it so terrible, bambina?" Giancarlo asked when they were back in the limousine. "The only sin I can think of that you committed was defying me," he chuckled. "And I gave you penance," he added as he pulled her close and slipped a large palm under her lush bottom.
"He didn't give me penance because I had nothing to confess," Francesca replied. "I don't believe in all that mumbo-jumbo."
"You were in there for a little while. What did you tell him?"
"I told him to go to Hell, to do it swiftly. I told him how to get there, and what he could do when he arrived. I told him Hell was too good for him. I told him..."
"What?!" he shouted, stunned at her words. "You told a priest to go to Hell? Would you like to explain that to me?" he growled as he turned her over his knees and beat a staccato drum roll on her clothed bottom.
"Why?" he asked as his hard hand descended.
"Stop!" Francesca yelled.
"I'll stop," he agreed, pulling her upright and onto his lap. "And I'll do this the right way when I get you home." Holding her squirming protesting body against his chest, he directed his driver to drive to Angelina's place.
When they arrived, Angelina took one look at the angry scowl on the Godfather's face and Francesca's tears and crossed her arms over her chest. "Don Batali?" she asked quietly.
"Angelina..." he replied.
"Francesca, go to your room, please," Angelina said softly. "Il Padre del Dio and I have something to discuss."
Francesca gladly escaped to her bedroom, locking the door behind her and placing a chair under the doorknob.
"Wine?" Angelina offered as she gestured for Giancarlo to sit at her kitchen table.
He took the wine and waited for her to say what she had to say.
Angelina did not mince words; she told Giancarlo how she met Francesca, the ugly circumstances of the young girl's life and other details he had been unaware of, particularly those that involved the current priest before he had become a man of the cloth. She made no excuses for spoiling the girl, loving her, and warned that she would continue to do all that was necessary to keep her from harm even if that meant alienating the Godfather himself.
Giancarlo was humbled by her love for Francesca and for her loyalty, even though that loyalty could betray him. The love of a mother for her child was not to be taken lightly; his own mother, tiny as she was, would gladly kill to keep him safe.
He kneeled in front of the older woman, took her hands in his and kissed them. "Angelina," he began. "I am falling in love with Francesca. She has become the most important person in my life. Si," he said as Angelina looked askance at his words. "Even mia madre is aware that though she will always remain in my heart, Francesca is consuming it."
"I want your blessing on this marriage, but we will marry without it," he said in the voice of the Godfather. "I will give her everything; she will want for nothing. And I know my love will grow as time passes. But," he added, standing. "I will not allow her to defy me or to behave in a way that is unacceptable."
Angelina nodded. She understood that Giancarlo was old-world Italian and Francesca had a stubborn independent streak. She had told him what he needed to know and how he handled it was his decision. She trusted him to do what was right; she wouldn't interfere.
"I can go shopping; how long do you need?"
"An hour, two at the most," he smiled, kissing her brow and grateful for her understanding. "My mother and I are eager to have you as part of our familia, Angelina Mancuso."
He twisted the knob of the bedroom door, put his shoulder against it, and broke the lock, the chair under the knob crashing to the floor. Without a word, he pulled the startled Francesca into his arms, kissed her hard and when she was weak from a lack of oxygen, draped her over his knees and bared her bottom. It was pink from the brief spanking he had given her when they left the church.
"Giancarlo!" she shrieked.
"I am not spanking you for what you said to the priest," he told her, each word punctuated by a hard swat. "I am spanking you for not telling me why. I am spanking you for not confiding in me, for defiance that was unnecessary, for assuming I would not understand, for not giving me a chance to understand. DO YOU UNDERSTAND NOW?" he asked, the last four swats so hard she would have flown off his lap if he wasn't holding her down.
"I hate you," she sobbed into his chest when he let her up.
"I know," he murmured, rubbing her tender bottom with one hand, her back with the other.
"Ti amo, bambina," he said softly.
"You don't love me," she sniffled, hating the spanking but needing his arms to hold her close.
"Give me a chance," he murmured. "Let me love you."