Early spring in Monte Aquila brings Rowan’s birthday. The little boy is getting annoyingly conscious of his own importance, even succeeding in bothering Ellen who decides it is finally time to move on. Rowan is going to “scuola materna”, pre-school, anyway, and doesn’t need her around as much as before.
Shasta has her own problems. She is worried about being pregnant for the third time. She has to tell Leonardo about her condition, but she is not sure about how he will react to another child. Especially as they had mutely decided on one child only after her perilous pregnancy. She almost died, after all.
She paces the bedroom, throwing glances at the little white paper bag on the bed. What if she isn’t pregnant? Maybe she is just nervous and stressed out. That would explain why she is overdue… She snatches up the bag and heads for the bathroom. Better be sure…
She follows the instructions and poses the pregnancy test on the brink of the sink, then she returns to her pacing in the bedroom, now throwing furtive glances at the alarm on the bedside table. After the requested amount of time she heads back into the master bathroom and picks it up.
There are two distinct pink ribbons on the little display.
She stares at it, willing the faint lines to go away. Suddenly she jumps with nerves at the sound of a motorcycle approaching. She quickly throws the test in the bin and hurries downstairs.
‘Ellen! Don’t forget you must pick Rowan up after school! James, don’t let her-’
She stops and smoothes out her silk dress at the sight of Ellen in Gabriele’s arms. She hesitates, not because she is feeling guilty about watching them through the window, but because she wants to look perfect when she opens the door.
Ellen is engaged to Gabriele, the handsome pizzaiolo, and they are planning to get married sometime in the future. Gabriele has decided to try his luck overseas and has been pestering her to come with him. But to do that, she has to hand in her resignation and that scares her. So she has asked Gabriele to help her out, knowing Shasta has a soft spot for the handsome chef. When Ellen hears the sound of his powerful motorcycle she hurries to beat the Butler to the door. She quickly steps outside and into the warm embrace of Gabriele who fumbles behind him to place his helmet on the seat.
‘Mi sei mancato, tesoro.’
‘I’ve missed you, too,’ she says a little out of breath.
She wonders how to best announce it, finally just blurting it out over dinner. She is surprised at his reaction, or rather his lack of reaction. He doesn’t get angry as she had first dreaded. Nor does he seem overjoyed. Instead he looks at her with a thoughtful glint in his eyes, scratching his chin.
‘I will have to go on a short business trip this week… Maybe you should come with me?’
She blinks in consternation. Did he not hear her? ‘Err… Where to?’
‘I didn’t know we had business there?’ she says, a little puzzled.
‘We have. Trust me, we have…’
Little does Shasta know about a dark pact from long ago…
February 1st. The thirteen warlocks of the coven are united for the Black Sabbath at San Colombano al Lambro… Shasta has been drugged to cooperate but is still shivering in the cold winter night.
The High Priest approaches, a black demon with pagan symbols written in blood all over his body. Shasta shivers and passes out…
Leonardo has changed since their return to Monte Aquila. He’s not the charming gentleman she married anymore; he acts more like a prison guard and he rarely lets her out of his sight. She has now spent a whole week in their bedroom reading and watching TV. Shasta is bored and decides to have a look in Leonardo’s bedside drawer.
Hmm… What is this? Hidden under a lot of newspaper clips and documents, she finds a book. “Young Goodman Brown” by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Shasta sits down and starts to read, getting more and more scared as she turns the pages…
“… human fat, especially of non-baptized children, is used to make an unguent that enables the witches to fly…”
I have to find a way to get out of here… Shasta can’t remember what has happened to her, but it must be something bad as she keeps seeing a black demon in her nightmares.
And the book! What does the book mean? If only I could contact Mother… Maybe Rowan can help me?…
Rowan visits her as often he can – or is allowed to. This morning she told Rowan she’s about to have a baby and at first he was angry to have to share, but there are advantages also in being a big brother…
Now he’s back to apologize. ‘I’m sorry, Mom. Can I feel the baby?’
Shasta is happy to oblige…
But when Rowan touches her bulging belly, something happens to him.
‘Rowan! What happens!?! Talk to me! ROWAN!’ Shasta doesn’t know what to do; she backs off from her son who suddenly scares her.
The door closes with a loud crash after her fleeing son.
‘Have you told him?’ Shasta doesn’t answer. ‘Good. Now you must continue doing as you’re told.’
Part I – End of Chapter 53