Part Thirty Five
by sarAdora ~~~~~~~~~~
The further along she was in her pregnancy, the more solicitous Giancarlo was toward his wife. Each morning, he helped her out of bed, took her into the shower with him, helped her dress, made sure she ate breakfast and had everything she needed before he started his workday. Late afternoons, he held her arm as they walked briefly within the compound. As she became heavier with child, she seemed to crave fresh air and though she tired easily, they took short walks each day. It was a good time for them; they had both come to realize their love for each other was strong and the child Francesca carried sealed that love.
Occasionally, Mama Batali walked with her daughter-in-law; other times, Angelina visited the compound and accompanied her and sometimes, she walked with Paolo and Leonardo who were already behaving as nonnos grandfathers. Although they were within the Batali compound, bodyguards had been ordered to follow the Godfather's wife at a discreet distance.
Francesca was the picture of health, her skin glowed, she felt well and her smile had become a natural and permanent fixture. If any woman was thrilled with expectant motherhood... it was the wife of the Godfather and everyone around her rejoiced in her happiness.
When they walked alone, the bodyguards gave the Godfather and his wife more privacy. They frequently stopped to rest and each time they did, Giancarlo held Francesca close while they basked in their happiness. Often, they sat on one of the many benches situated within the forested compound. Giancarlo held her on his lap, his voice tender and his hands in gentle caress as he spoke the words meant for her ears alone.
Dark eyes followed them... Fueled by hate that was barely kept in check, he watched il Padre del Dio and his puttana della moglie whore of a wife.
This could be the day...
"Gianni, you are going to break your back!" Francesca protested when he picked her up and settled her on his lap as they sat on a bench at the edge of the wooded path. "You cannot pick me up like that. I weigh as much as a cow!"
"A baby calf, mia amore?" her proud husband laughed. "You weighed as much as a feather before; you have gained so much weight," he sighed as if burdened, "that you must weigh as much as an armful of feathers. And you are a sweet armful," he murmured as he held her. "A delicious armful and siete miniera you are mine." he added with great satisfaction.
Francesca sighed as she snuggled into his arms, happy to be in his embrace. "I love the way you hold me," she murmured.
"How do I hold you?" he smiled as he hugged her tighter, his heart full and his soul content.
"Like a giant teddy bear," she teased. "You have these strong arms and you hold me gently. Thank you for that," she said softly, meaning every word.
"I thank my saints for you, everyday, bambina," he murmured. "Every day."
The sun sent its golden rays through the canopied forest, slivers of it shining on them as they relished the impending birth of their first child.
The devil saw his opportunity... and silently moved toward them... hatred boiling his blood, a stiletto in his hand...
A sudden warmth between her thighs engulfed Francesca and she tried to leap off of her husband's lap but he held her in place. "Gianni!" she cried. "I've... I've sprung a leak!"
"So you have," he laughed. "And you've wet me as well."
"I... I cannot believe... the babe rests on my... I cannot hold... I have to... I should live in the bathroom," she sighed and then blushed furiously that she had wet herself.
"Come mia moglie, mia bambina, my wife, my baby," he laughed softly. "Let us get you back into the house and changed."
"The back way," she pleaded. "I don't want anyone to see us."
"The back way," he agreed not wanting to cause her unnecessary embarrassment in front of the house staff.
He helped her undress and washed her, making her blush again and when she would protest the intimacy, he shushed her, telling her that he loved her and that if anyone was going to soil *his* clothing, he was glad it was her.
She swatted his arm.
He laughed, enjoying every aspect of her pregnancy, even the accidents.
"We didn't finish our walk," she reminded him. "I want to walk a bit more."
"Mia amore, I need to speak with Petey Petrale," Giancarlo told her when she had changed her clothes and they descended the stairs. "He has not had a day off in months and I need to encourage him to do so. Walk with mia madre. I will catch up with you shortly."
"Come, mia figlia, my daughter," Mama Batali smiled, taking her hand. "We will leave the men to their business and inhale all the fresh air without them."
Giancarlo rolled his eyes at his mother's words, causing Francesca to giggle.
The afternoon sun began its descent as they walked on the edge of the forested area, not too far away from the main house. Almost far enough...
Its glow had long since changed from canary yellow to bronze, casting a golden hue and changing everything in its dying embers to that same shade of gold.
A good day to die...
Francesca and her mother-in-law chatted happily and then Francesca paused mid-step and grabbed the matriarch's hand. "Feel the kick?" she smiled. "The babe is enjoying our walk."
Mama Batali placed a hand on the firm roundness that was her grandchild and her heart overflowed with happiness. The kick was strong.
And the devil showed his face...
A swift hard fist sprang out of nowhere, landing on Mama Batali's cheek, stunning her... throwing her down... hard... and instantly knocking her out. Before Francesca could react, that same arm shoved her to the ground.
The child within her kicked...
She landed on her belly... knocking the wind out of her... rendering her speechless...
The kicks came fast and furious, the man's words unintelligible but vicious in tone. The pain was searing and Francesca huddled into a fetal position, gasping for breath as she tried to protect her unborn child.
A vicious upward kick thrust her body up into the air and slammed her down onto her back... her arm instinctively went up to cover her belly, the other to cover her chest that was suddenly bared as her clothing was shredded by the attack.
A heavy cleated shoe pressed into her belly.
The child within her was still...
"No!" she heard herself scream as the sun faded from her eyes, her mind blanked... lost to oblivion.
The dark color of her blood... mixed with other fluids... amniotic... spread in increasing circles... surrounding her.