She sat at the desk, head bent over her bible, but her prayers were empty.
"Sweet Isabel, why your eyes be red?" asked Lucio, hand on the door. Isabella looked up but realised explanation for her tears was not necessary. "Oh Isabel, circumstance hath brought you to an undeserving chamber. The Duke be a man untrue, a falsehood - the only truth is in his codpiece. He's a fisherman in the sewers, five-piece velvet, not worthy of such a virtuous maid."
"Not a maid." Isabel replied, her eyes fixed on the view of the city though the window.
"You must leave him." stated Lucio, sweeping into the room.
"How can I leave the man who has tied me to him so."
"Then find relief in another."
"I pray sir you be more blunt."
"Another man Isabel. Surely you have a love in this whole city."
"I bear love for no one. Even love for thy father, his heavenly seat seems distant now."
Lucio paced, explaining how she must get away from the Duke. "You'll rot in his bed, a decaying fruit plucked from the tree in Eden. You must converse with another."
"I could Claudio but I feel I cannot tell him the cause of my upset."
"There is another whose likeness is you. I have heard you talk with him before, and that time you was of discussion stimulating. I have ne'r seen people converse with such matrimony. The new Angelo might offer you solace - he would be open, I am certain, to meet with-" asked Lucio carefully.
"-Angelo! You mock me, how, that man, that villain, rightfully a harlot he. No more than every man behind bars in the prison yonder. I shall not enter the serpent's nest, Tis a poor deputy for comfort. I beg you leave me, for a suggestion I do not believe you can offer."
Lucio was angered at her ignorance.
"Listen Isbael. I, a bawd, know of love more than most. I am no stranger to the art and profession of the procurement of lust, and so I can see what love and lust can do. Power corrupts, gentle Isabel, and power of emotion too strong. I have seen Angelo since he wed, and see no villain in that man, no more than what I see in you."
"Angelo, no villain, what audacity you have! He would lie with me and kill my brother still!"
"On a pedestal he could kill a thousand but on the ground would not a fly. He is no longer dress'd in the love of the Duke, no longer possessing powers of mortality and mercy. For it, he is a changed man."
"None could change him." replied Isabella coldly.
"You need only look down and see how circumstance alters purpose. I see no habit Isabella. You wear clothes of a noble - that does not fit with Doctrine."
"I could not the cloister enter - Angelo to blame - so act accordingly to what is desired of me."
"It does not do to dwell on demands and forget to live. Oh sweet beauty you could make any man fall."
"Tis not my fault Angelo did fall"
"I agree such, and wouldn't imply any other. I state just that you could pick any from Vienna; a kind soul is rare in this city. It is a gift, one that you now neglect in fear."
"Fear! Of the Duke? I fear not him, only his power."
"And so distinction between power and man you do mark."
"I do, but also note the differences from one man to the next. All is subjective, sir." She was turned to him, hair tucked behind her ears and looking far calmer. Her pensive expression was registered by Lucio as progress.
"Come, endulge me and answer this: you are lonely?"
"You know it so, Lucio."
"And you wish for company?"
"I wish not to be lonely, that is sure." Lucio stepped forwards to her and placed his hands out. Obediently she placed hers on his, allowing him to hold and pull her up from her chair. She stumbled and gave an unimpressed expression. Beneath that though Lucio knew there would be a smile, as the action was that of friendship, something she was deprived of.
"Oh sweet Isabel, do walk with me." he enquired whilst caressing her cheek. She blushed, but did not withdraw from his touch - instead she surprised him by agreeing to do so.
"Let us go then!" Lucio summoned, taking her arm and near pulling her from the chamber. She tottered with him and let out a little laugh.
The pair wondered though the city. Isabel was pleased to be free of the palace walls and to walk the streets on which she had grown up. Their journey brought them past both happy and sad memories, though she concluded that it therefore provided a true picture of her past. Meanwhile they conversed happily, though modesty was not one of Lucio's attributes so their conversation often verged in the direction of his female interests.
"I was thinking of lovely maidens; you, Isabel, be one I considered."
"Marianna?" Isabel exclaimed. His flirting seemed to of transitioned to the telling of a fancy.
"A night with her would-"
"You heard me right, love."
"Why... Marianna?" Isabella questioned. She was confused; a bawd may experience many women, but Angelo's wife was not one she would've expected.
Lucio hummed to himself before continuing "A night with her; magic. She has this beauty, this allure in her rugged, wild appearance. Her voice is like honey, soft and viscous, draws you in-"
"Alright." Isabella interrupted for Lucio's captivated description clearly showed her how he felt about Marianna. It seemed not like his other relations with women - she daresay he may even be in love.
"Dark curls on her head, I just want to-"
"What about Kate?" asked Isabella.
"My wife?" Lucio started, "why, she wouldn't notice, that punk." Whilst Isabella disapproved of the manner in which Lucio addressed his wife, she had learnt on previous occasions that his marriage was not a topic Lucio was keen on and so could often lead to anger and discomfort that, in this instance, she would rather avoid.
"Marianna is often at the market. I shall go see her."
"I do not wish to accompany you in your liaisons."
"You must be thankful that I have brought you here then." Lucio watched Isabella as she took in her surroundings.
"Where are we?" she asked. They were on the edge of the street, one side lined with terraced town houses which contrasted with the quaint detached houses beside them.
"A friend's" he replied, guiding her across a front garden to the threshold of one of the smaller houses. It was made of brick and surrounded by flowers of many colours which adorned the cottage. Lucio knocked firmly on the door, planted a kiss on Isabella's cheek (making her flinch) and then called out-
"Enjoy yourself!" and paraded away with a grin on her face. Isabella was about to call back and ask what was happening but before she could she heard the latch of the door creak. Compelled to follow convention, she turned, ready to politely talk to the person of the house and then bid farewell.
The door opened and there stood Angelo, his appearance rugged and hair roused like he had just woke.
"Isabel, if that be Isabel, for one can never be sure it is her." She paused, comprehending who it was and thinking what to say. To meet him was an unwanted shock, but now he stood before her she desired to discuss with him topics that she had thought about greatly.
"Tis... as true that Angelo is before me," she replied, "The man precise in both stricture and passion."
"I am as much Angelo as the Duke a friar."
"You to be Angelo, I am certain. I do not mistake you."
"When I was a deputy I was him, but now... Nothing more. To think how I must live, behind lock and key in a city I cannot walk for fear of ambush. Hatred lurks in each gaze of strangers I pass."
"Vienna's hatred was of no fault but your own. My brother, more than any, could vouch for that"
"Your brother is the cause of my trouble, and he by you, and you by the Duke."
"Under the recommendation of Lucio I did propose that mercy for Claudio be wise. Gods grace in thy power was possible but your hands chose a path leaving you with no redemption."
"Tis not man who redeems but God, and when God looks on my inmost soul he will see my true nature and then heaven I shall enter."
"How can you be certain? Why Angelo, Tis strange to think you worthy to pass through the golden gates. Virtue is not of your character, your goodness unclear. Tell, how can you say you are pure when I know you not."
"You know me not Isabel. The few days you met me do not represent my life as a whole. Surely you understand that."
"It does not dismiss your actions. You were untrue, seeming-"
"-Once there was truth to your words, but the reality holds that it was the result of my duty that I acted so."
His refusal to acknowledge her statement on those days angered her. She wished only he would listen to her, rather than fuelling his own sorrowful thoughts. "Oh it was not your duty, though it may be the duty of corruption. Your tyranny though. Tis unforgivable - 'fit thy will to my consent' - Tis violent, malicious - 'who will believe thee Isabel' - oh ten times strange it was. Though this day you may be anew, on those days you did sin, you did give your 'sensual race the reign'."
"Hear me not in those words but the deputy."
"Twas not your title that spoke so. Words came your mouth, no other. Yet seems Tis only me supporting the latter. I have been told, many a time, you are separate from your position. Is there truth, can I trust it?"
"For the lady of the Duke, you could. He of all is a liar-"
"-Watch your tongue." Isabella responded, placing her hands on her hips, unimpressed with the lack of respect shown. Irregardless, she did find mutual thoughts on the Duke within herself.
"He tricked us all as Friar Lodowick," Angelo continued. "In our moments of struggle he was there to twist it for his purpose. He lied to us all, more than we can count. Such a man still sits at the head of the table. Why, his actions are no better than any of us, and in respects worse. How you can bare it, Isabel, to know what he has done yet lay with him still." He was straightforward in speech, but it did not upset Isabel. It comforted her hearing another speak so, and the comfort Angelo could offer started to appear. He was like Isabella; if she stood in his shoes, there would be little difference in character. Only that he would act on his impulses whilst she would hide them.
"You know it so. I can tell, so don't mock me by saying otherwise. Who would hear us, Isabel. There are no servants here, just I and you." Isabella did not respond to this. She was looking into his eyes, trying to read his countenance, and found it quite plain. She studied his appearance then, and found he simply looked tired and alone, and couldn't help the pity rising in her chest.
"We are not so different." She spoke softly, thinking of the hours she lay awake at night by the Duke, so close to another man and yet more alone than when she sat at her desk during the day. Angelo's expression changed to one of slight disbelief. Her honesty overwhelmed him, for through his life he was not often exposed to it. Those in his past exercised lying like it was a sport, and he had become accustomed to it. Yet her she was, a woman who was not pedantic with him. He understood her when she spoke, and when she spoke he spoke with her. They were interconnected through speech and mind, and the desires he felt a few months prior began to arise, a desire to be interconnected once more. This time though it was not accompanied by the raging lust he once felt - no, now it was gentle, flickering. It was hope.