Sometimes, when writing, you come up with more scenes than can fit into the narrative without slowing it down. Here is one such scene from my Fidelio novel, which I like, but can't figure out where to put. Le sigh.
NB: Jacinta is Rocco's housekeeper. Somebody has to be there to keep an eye on Marzelline!
“Jacinta, will you sit with Florestan tomorrow? Don Fernando wishes to speak with me again in the morning about the accounts I did, and I don’t want to leave him alone.”
Leonora Serrano, Fidelio that was, stood in the kitchen doorway, looking awkward. Jacinta paused, up to her elbows in flour, letting the dough in her hands rest.
“Of course I will. How is he this afternoon?”
“Better,” Leonora said, “though he had a nightmare. He said to thank you for the cinnamon bread. It was delicious.”
Jacinta smiled. Four days had Florestan been with them, and he was already saying thank you. Gratitude was all he had to give, she supposed. She would never have believed it of a wealthy gentleman, but then, she would never have believed that the woman in front of her could have done what she did, either. The world was changing, that was for certain.
“He seems to be a good man,” she said. Leonora nodded. “And how are you, my dear? Have you rested at all today?”
“No, no, it is not necessary,” Leonora said. The dark circles under her eyes belied her insistence, but Jacinta knew better than to press the matter.
“What time will you go? I will bring up the mending and sit with him until you return.”
“Fernando will come here at eight o’clock, and speak with me in the parlor. Thank you, Jacinta. Thank you for putting up with the extra work.”
Jacinta waved a hand. As if she would abandon two needy people!
The next morning, when Leonora brought their breakfast tray downstairs, Jacinta accompanied her into the invalid’s chamber, carrying her basket of mending. Florestan (Jacinta could not think of his as titled, not when he was so sick and helpless) lay asleep again, He did look a sight better than he had five days ago, Jacinta thought, settling herself in the armchair and taking up one of Rocco’s shirts. The ghastly grey pallor was leaving his face.
“Am I presentable?” Leonora raised her arms and turned a slow pirouette before Jacinta. In Marzelline’s borrowed blue frock, she looked entirely different from Fidelio, yet nothing like a fine lady.
“You look very pretty,” Jacinta said. She would look even prettier if her face was not so pale and anxious, but Jacinta held her tongue. The woman had every right to be anxious. “Go on, then, and make sure you tell my lord minister that he is to give you credit where it’s due.”
Leonora smiled and left. Jacinta settled into her mending. There wasn’t much, but the men would abuse their sleeves and trousers so. She hummed to herself as she worked, a sailor’s tune that she had learned as a child in Cadiz. The hum of voices downstairs drifted up to her, but she could not make out what they were saying, and didn’t bother trying. Three of Rocco’s shirts needed new cuffs, and Jacquino had torn a hole one trouser leg in his haste to let the prisoners out when the minister had bidden him to. Marzelline needed a new petticoat; this one was getting too thin in the back. Jacinta felt eyes on her and looked up. Don Florestan lay back on his pillows, his eyes open, watching her. Startled-she had not heard any change in his breathing-Jacinta let her sewing drop into her lap.
“Hello, Florestan. I did not expect you to wake so soon. Would you like some water?”
He nodded, his wary eyes not leaving her face. Jacinta stood and reached for the water jug. The tumbler on the table was clean, and Jacinta filled it and brought it to the invalid. Florestan sat up, still watching her with those big, nervous eyes.
“Here now. I always say that a glass of water on waking starts the day off right. It’s good, isn’t it? Nice and fresh. There.”
Florestan drained the cup. Jacinta took it from him and patted his shoulder.
“Thank you,” whispered Florestan. “Where is my wife?”
“Downstairs, speaking with my lord minister about how she undermined Don Pizarro. She’ll come back soon.”
Florestan nodded, hugging himself. Poor man, thought Jacinta, fetching a roll out of the basket on the table. “Would you like some bread and butter? I’ll put a little jam on it, too. Orange marmalade; homemade in January. Leonora tells me you like oranges.”
Florestan nodded again. Jacinta felt his eyes on her as she sliced the roll open and spread it with butter and marmalade (thank Heaven she had insisted that Leonora keep a basket of provisions in the room at all times). Such a simple thing, bread and marmalade, but enough to lift anyone’s spirits, especially a starving man’s.
“There now. Let’s sit you up properly.” She reached behind Florestan and fluffed his pillows, creating a wall for him to lean on. When he was comfortably situated, she reached for the plate.
“Forgive me,” Florestan said, suddenly. “I have lost the ability to converse with ease.”
Jacinta turned, the plate of dressed bread in her hand. “There is no need to apologize, Florestan. I understand quite well.”
Florestan gave her a small smile and sat back to eat his bread and jam. An ecstatic look passed over his face as he bit off the first chunk, and Jacinta resisted the urge to reach out and ruffle his hair. He may be an invalid, but he was a grown man, and not comfortable with her. Instead, she settled herself back down with her mending.
“Did my singing wake you?”
“I don’t think so. No. I like it.”
Jacinta smiled at him, and Florestan ducked his head, gave her another of those small, shy smiles. They sat together in companionable silence, Jacinta humming and Florestan enjoying his snack. How funny it was, to sit in a room so with a gentleman. It was hard for Jacinta to think of these people as aristocrats.