Part Twenty Seven
by sarAdora ~~~~~~~~~~
Francesca approached her mother-in-law with hesitancy, unsure of where to begin and when she refused to sit, Mama Batali arched a knowing brow.
"Giancarlo does that," Francesca managed to say, noting her mother-in-law's expression. "It usually means I'm... I've... uh... displeased him."
"You have not displeased me, mia figlia my daughter. Come," she coaxed, placing a soft pillow on the couch beside her. "This will make it easier for you to sit."
"You know?" Francesca asked softly as she gingerly lowered herself to the couch to sit beside the Batali matriarch.
"Si," the older woman smiled as she took her daughter-in-law's hand. "Giancarlo's father did the same to me when I displeased him. It must run in their genes. It does not mean he loves you less, bambina. I hope you know that."
"I don't know what I know, madre," she said softly, the sweet endearment of calling her mother-in-law "mother" was not lost on the older woman. "I try hard to please Gianni, but it doesn't always work out that way."
"You call him Gianni, now?" his mother asked.
"Si, he... he doesn't mind. Do you?" Francesca asked, wondering if she had overstepped some sacred bond between mother and son.
"I am delighted," Mama Batali cooed, hugging her daughter-in-law. "It is a name only those who love him or have earned the right, dare to say. And I am positive he is happy that you call him by his family name. Now, tell me what bothers you so much. Perhaps I can help."
Francesca finally told her mother-in-law about the incident on Siros Island when Giancarlo had been angered that she had worn the string bikini. She told of the severe spanking that followed, the apologies Giancarlo had uttered, the frustration she was having at trying to be a good wife and failing.
"No matter what I do, I seem to do it wrong and Gianni spanks me for it and... and... I'm not sure how much more I can take. He wants me to be independent but he restricts my independence. He wants to hear my thoughts and opinions and if he doesn't like them, he... Sometimes, I think I'm just another possession in his life."
"Do you love him?" the question asked quietly.
"I don't know," Francesca answered truthfully, a tribute to the bond she felt with her husband's mother. "Sometimes, I think I do and when we are in bed... it is good for both of us," she admitted, her face pinking at her words. "Other times... I'm not sure."
"Does he love you?"
"He says he does, but madre, his actions... the spankings... He has a hard hand. It is heavy and it hurts beyond my endurance. If he loved me, would he really spank me so hard?"
"Marriage is not a two-way street, figlia daughter," her mother-in-law sad sadly. "Si, women are bolder today, have jobs outside the home. They are better educated, have more opportunities than I had as a girl. So many have to think for themselves, raise children on their own, be the one who brings home the money to feed and clothe everyone. You are one of the fortunate ones, Francesca. You have a husband who can provide for you in ways most women will never know. Gianni will give you whatever you want. And in return, he wants only one thing from you."
"No," Mama Batali said quietly, her hand reaching for the coffee urn to fill their cups. "Obedience. He wants your obedience, the one thing that is the hardest for you to give him."
"He doesn't want my love?"
"Ovviamente Of course he wants your love but he would never ask for it; that must be given freely. But your obedience is very important to him," she said firmly, the strength of her voice evident, her words filled with a passion Francesca had not heard before. "He is the head of our house and he must make decisions that affect our lives. That should be reason enough but more important, Gianni is the Godfather here, il Padre del Dio della la Familia Batali the Godfather of the Batali Family. His rules are for our safety and continued goodwill with the other Familia."
"Your safety, figlia daughter," she emphasized by taking her daughter-in-law's hands in hers. "My safety and Gianni's and the safety of the men who work with him. And their wives, Francesca," she added as she looked directly into the younger woman's eyes. "And their children's lives and their extended families. When you put yourself in jeopardy, you put us all in jeopardy. What you did yesterday could have turned into a disaster of huge proportions... la nostra casa our house at war with the others."
"I went to the shelter without my bodyguard," Francesca exclaimed. "I... we... you and I often go out alone. What was so terrible that I did? What is the worst thing that could have happened, an accident? How would Sal have made any difference?"
"When you go out with friends or if we are out shopping together, we are never alone, bella. Someone is always following to be sure we are safe and that someone is a person Giancarlo trusts to keep us safe. Make no mistake. He protects you even when you are unaware of that protection. It is what is expected of a Godfather. It is what his father would expect of him; he can do no less."
Francesca blinked. "He worries that much?" she asked, stunned that her husband had taken precautions to guard her but said nothing to her so as not to alarm her.
"If something had happened to you and Gianni found out that you were harmed by a bastardo bastard from another family, it would be enough to start a war between all the ruling Families. Each would take sides and there would be much fighting and needless death. We are loyal to the death," she added as an afterthought. "But we will avenge any insult and if that insult was something like harming a hair on your beautiful head, we would go to any length to make matters right. We are so American, so modern," she sighed, "and yet, we have never let go of our Sicilian roots. It is ingrained in us. An eye for an eye. You are one of us, bambina and it is something you have to face."
Angelina had stronger words for her adopted daughter. She chastised her for her thoughtlessness and her lack of appreciation for the Godfather.
"I didn't marry il Padre del Dio the Godfather," Francesca complained. "I married Giancarlo Batali."
"He is one and the same, bambina," Angelina sighed. "And the sooner you accept that, the easier it will be for you to adjust to your new life. Is it such a terrible life, piccola little one? The man loves you; you live well and there is nothing he would deny you."
"He loves me? What makes you think he loves me?"
Angelina laughed. And then she clapped a hand over her mouth, her laughter consuming her at Francesca's question.
"Bambina! I have never seen a man so besotted as il Padre del Dio is with you! Have you no idea how much he loves you? He..." Angelina paused mid-breath when sudden doubts flew into her mind. "Perhaps... he doesn't know how much he loves you," she mused. "Does he treat you badly? I cannot believe he treats you badly."
"He spanks me," Francesca said softly. "And he does it often and it hurts!"
"Si, a spanking hurts. And what have you done to make him think you deserve those spankings?" Her mouth curved up slightly as Francesca hemmed and hawed about why she was spanked and it took all her self-control not to laugh as the younger woman blushed in the telling of the things she had done that had angered her husband. It was obvious to Angelina that both Francesca and Giancarlo were still learning about each other and she smiled knowingly. Both Leonardo and Paolo had spanked her royally when they were younger and new to each other. She had accepted that aspect of their relationship, embraced it as part of their lovemaking and relished the dominance each man had over her in bed. But she was from an older generation and perhaps...
"He makes love to you often?"
"And he pleases you in bed?"
Francesca admitted that he *did* please her in bed.
"Ah... so you must try harder to make him beg for your favors... make him crazy with his need for you. Then," Angelina spoke with confidence. "You will have him eating out of your hand."
"I want him to see me as a person, not a possession or a... a sexual object. I want more than that."
"Bambina, the physical part of your marriage is important to a man like Giancarlo. Do not fight that part; it should be pleasure for both of you. Use it to your advantage and your husband will see you as you want him to see you. This is what you should do..."
Francesca smiled in agreement as she listened to the voice of experience. She could follow Angelina's advice. "Gianni, Gianni, Gianni," she hummed on her way home. "I am Signora Francesca Minucci Batali. Hear me roar!"