Actions

Work Header

Purgatory

Work Text:

There was a loud thump on the door which Maria ignored, more focused on dragging her mistress back from the window, where she stood in her shift, sobbing. 

"Infanta," Maria had her arms around Catalina's waist, pulling with enough force that the tiny princess should have been sent toppling onto the ground. But somehow her mistress held firm, fingers digging into the stone of the wall. "Come away, please!"

The thumping on the door continued and Maria heard a man's voice shout something in English. Lina responded before turning back to Maria and Rosa. 

"It's the King." She told them. The Infanta's head snapped around letting Maria see her panicked tear stained eyes. 

"My lady, please." Maria repeated. 

The King yelled something from the other side of the door and Lina responded.

"Get a robe!" Maria shouted at Rosa, finally peeling her mistress away from the window. The King seemed decidedly enraged as he yelled again.

"What king?" The Infanta asked, voice cracking as she turned to completely face Maria.

"The King of England." Maria told her as she pushed her mistress' red, tangled hair from her shoulders and gasped in horror. A thick red line of blistering skin wrapped around her mistress' neck.

"Infanta..." Maria began as Rosa brought a red robe over.

"Where am I?" Asked the Infanta, voice cracking as the King yelled again. She heard Lina's gasp as the Moor caught sight of Catalina's neck.

"Get the Infanta dressed." Lina ordered. Rosa all but shoved Catalina's quivering arms into her robe as Maria rushed to grab a veil. The King yelled again but this time it was the Infanta who responded.

"You speak of curtesy while you beat and scream like an ape!" The Infanta said. Then, once again, she asked. "Where am I? This is not the Tower, where am I?"

Maria pulled a coronet from out of a trunk and grabbed the veil it had been paired with.

"At Dogmersfield, my lady." Lina informed her. "In England."

The King shouted again but this time, everyone ignored him. The Infanta looked around wildly until her eyes landed on Maria and her mouth fell open. Catalina's face took on a shade of white so ghastly that Maria feared she might collapse into a faint.

"De Sallinas?" She said as Maria placed the coronet and veil atop her mistress' head.

"Si, Infanta."

Catalina seemed to sway to the side but rosa grabbed onto her arm, righting the Infanta. The King banged his fist against the door so hard it shook.

"Open the door." Catalina said in English, to Maria's confusion. "Open the fucking door."

The King stormed in as soon as Lina unlocked the door. He was tall with a good nose and a greying beard, in a rose cloak. Maria curtsied with the other young women, thinking to herself that he was quite handsome. If his son took after him in appearance the Infanta would count herself a lucky bride and doubly so if Arthur had not inherited his father's manners.

"Infanta." The King spoke in a voice containing the minutest trace of a French accent. Maria looked at her mistress to see that she was gripping onto Rosa's arm with both hands.

"Your highness." She responded, in a voice so soft that Maria could nearly hear her. The King stepped closer and opened his mouth as if to speak but in the same low whisper Catalina continued. "It does not surprise me that a king would be so impatient but one might expect more restraint when faced with his own son's wife." The Infanta said. Maria saw Lina shift in discomfort and deduced that her mistress must have said something insulting. 

"I nearly wish to lay my eyes upon what we have waited half a year to see." The King responded. "Please remove your veil."

"You, your highness, seek to enter my rooms whilst I am in a state of undress and then demand that I expose myself further?" The Infanta spoke, pulling herself more upright and away from Rosa's body. "It is Spanish custom to wear this veil until my wedding day."

"But our customs are different." The King said.

"That may be, your highness." The Infanta said back, voice sweet. "And I will respect that when I do not have strange men entering my rooms while I am in my shift."

"I would see your face before you wed my heir." The King's voice was hard but not quite threatening in it's tone. Maria watched with a inevitable sense of horror as her mistress swayed first to the right and then the left. The King, praise be to god, noticed the movement and sprung forward grasping the Infanta by her shoulders keeping her upright.

"If you are ill you will have a doctor." The King told the Infanta. Maria thought to herself that that might be a dangerous idea.

"Come, fetch your mistress a chair!" The King stared right at Maria. His eyes were brown with light flecks of green. Maria scurried to grab the chair behind Rosa forward for the Infanta. Catalina all but fell backwards into it, doubling over on herself so that she was almost bent in two before she straightened up. The Infanta put her hands on the arms of the chair and straightened her spine as if a puppet pulled to life by a string. 

"I fell out of my bed, your highness, and struck my head." Catalina said. "But I will see your physician and remove my veil when you so kindly leave to dress. Or is it English custom for the father of the groom to see the bride's naked body before the wedding?"

The King nodded his head, leaned forward and said something so low Maria could not hear. Then he turned on his heel and walked out. Catalina ripped the coronet and veil from her head and burst into tears.


Anne lay in the bed, curtains pulled. Catherine's bad with Catherine's fanatical Spanish ladies gossiping outside. She fought back the hysterical laugh bubbling up in her throat. She expected either Hell with demons and fiery whips or Heaven with her dead baby boys and brother. And Pourquoi. If dogs could go to heaven that was. But Anne was in neither. She was in bloody Catherine of Aragon's body with Maria de Salinas calling her Infanta. And Henry the Seventh.

Anne rolled onto her side and forced herself to take a deep breath, filling her sore throat with cool oxygen. The she put her hand over her face, feeling the massive owl like eyes, small upturned nose and the large red lips that would become Mary's only handsome feature.

What sort of hell was this? Anne wondered. To ride in the body of Catherine of Aragon while she wedded two brothers?

God, it was not as if Anne didn't have some pity-some bloody empathy-for the woman. She'd heard enough moaning and whining about the "Princess of Wales'" lodgings and the fact that Chapuys couldn't see her but Henry had had her killed on trumped up, shit charges. Bloody bastard.

That's what her husband had been, Anne finally allowed herself to think. She let out a bark of a laugh. A bloody obsessive bastard. 

To think she hadn't sealed her own damnation when Henry had banished Katherine and Mary-Pearl of his world, Anne's asshole-away without a word or a backwards glance. Anne had not asked for that, oh she'd wanted them gone and she'd made no bones about it to Henry or anyone else but even she'd found it strange that they'd been all but vanished without a word. At least, until Mary had been put in Elizabeth's household. She should have known he was capable of murder when he'd done that. God, she should have known when he'd beheaded Thomas More. 

"My lady," The curtain on her bed opened ever so slightly to reveal a woman Anne did not recognize at all. Maybe she'd been dead by the time Anne had returned from France.

"Is the Doctor here?" Anne asked, struggling to keep an accent that wasn't tinged with French.

"Not yet, Infanta." The woman said. "Let me bathe your throat."

Anne tensed on the bed, about to refuse, about to protest but the curtain opened fully to reveal what Anne could only describe as the most maternal woman she had ever seen. She was not plump but thin and her face was not vastly aged as Anne's grandmother's had been but her black eyes held a softness and warmth that Anne had not seen directed toward her in a very long time. Slowly she got out from beneath her blankets, Catherine's blankets, Catherine's body. Anne felt as if she could throw herself from the top of whatever mansion was housing them and not feel any pain when she hit the ground. 

"It will be alright, Señora." The woman said, putting a hand on Anne's bare shoulder, making her jump. She then cradled Anne's cheeks. "You will meet Prince Arthur and be a wife soon. This homesickness will pass."

Then she bent and lifted a wet towel from the bowl that must have been on the floor.

"He's going to die." Anne told the woman. "He'll be dead before next winter."

She froze, large dark eyes peering into Anne's own. Catherine's own. 

"Dona Elvira..." A woman who Anne could not see spoke.

"Be quiet!" Dona Elvira snapped. "Tell no one of the Infanta's premonition."

She then put the rag back into the bowl of water, rang it out and held it up to Anne's neck.

"What had god shown you, my lady?" She asked as she pressed the warm, soft fabric to Anne's aching throat. Anne jerked backwards as the touch made her pain worsen. She raised a hand to touch her neck since the first time she had awoken. Since she died.

Anne fought an unwelcome sob that rose up from the very center of Catherine's tiny body. She didn't win, feeling her eyes grow wet and her lungs heave as she let out a choked hiccup.

"Infanta Catalina?" Out of nowhere de Salinas appeared at her back, wrapping an arm around her. Anne twisted around and hugged the blond woman, eyes shut, imagining the spaniard was her own Mary. Anne began to sob, body shaking. 

"No." Anne said. "No, I'm not."

Maria only held more tightly as she wailed. Another set of arms came to clasp her within them. She felt her entire body begin to melt into the two woman. Anne wished they could swallow her up, that she could disappear into the air. It had been a long time since she had been hugged or held by another woman. Maria de Salinas rubbed her hand up and down Anne's back. The touch heated Anne's skin, despite Catherine's nightshift between their skin. Catherine's skin. Catherine's bones. Catherine's fucking tears. 

There was a soft rap on the door which Dona Elvira ignored. The elder woman kissed the top of Anne's head. It was like Anne's mother had done of her and she had done for Elizabeth what now seemed like a lifetime ago.

"Infanta, you must be brave like your lady mother." Dona Elvira whispered before she released Anne to de Salinas.

"My mother..." Anne spat out in English before loosing herself in another fit of sobs. Her mother would be barred in her rooms at this moment, mourning for the two-no, three, Mary was as unlikely to reconcile with their parents as they were to forgive her-children she had lost to ambition. Elizabeth Howard had no spine, acquiescing to her husband and brother's whims before Anne's childish eyes. When Anne was a grown maid she realized that may of of those whims had been planted in earth tilled and watered by her lady mother. It was something Mary had never learned and Anne had been arrogant enough to think she was the master of.

"Infanta," De Salinas whispered. "You cannot weep in such a manner, you are the daughter of Isabel of Castille. You were raised on sterner stuff."

Anne hiccuped, swallowing her tears. Yes, she thought, Catherine of Aragon had been made of sterner stuff, just as her mother, the legendary queen had been. But Anne's mother had been a snake, buried in the grass along a road waiting for some hapless house to step just within striking range, rather than a fluttering bird darting away from the claws of pursuers. And Anne La Boleyn, the Concubine, the Night Crow, thrice damned, brother fucking, witch would learn to use that snake spine. 

By god, she had time. Catherine was what? Fifteen, sixteen? Henry had given her over twenty years and Anne only three. 

"It's the physician, my lady." De Salinas told her.

"I will see him now." Anne pulled herself from De Salinas' arms and choked back a sob.


"So what's wrong with the brat?" My lady, the King's mother demanded. Thomas Butts wondered if the tiny, rail thin woman ever sat. She loomed over her son like a statue of some martyred saint.

"The Princess does not seem to have sustained any severe injury." Thomas assured the elderly woman. "In fact, I believe her weakness comes from exhaustion, my lady."

"Are you certain of that?" Margaret asked. "She seemed spirited enough when I spoke to her."

Thomas opened his mouth to assure her but the King spoke.

"The Infanta carried no sign of injury?"

"The Princess Catherine bore but one." He did not know how to describe it. The mark had been visible from the moment he entered the Princess' quarters and had turned his stomach. He! The physician who had tended limbs crushed under horses, who had attended over a hundred hangings, who had bathed dozens of diseased men in mercury before being appointed as royal physician. "An abrasion to her throat, your highness."

"Of what nature?" The King's mother inquired.

"The Infanta claimed she had fallen from her bed." The King informed him.

"Yes, your highness." Thomas said. He paused, thinking wilding. The wound had no resemblance, other than it's placement, to those condemned to hang but perhaps that would be enough. "I believe her highness became entangled within her bedsheets, for it encircles her neck."

"Around her neck?" Margaret Beaufort asked incredulously.

"Yes." Thomas responded. "I thought could be some kind of a disfiguring birth mark, my lady. But umbrage of the mark itself and the skin the frames it hinted of sur bruising."

"Thank you, Dr. Butts." The King nodded his head and flicked his fingers up in a clear dismissal. Thomas bowed and backed out of the room. 

"That girl needs to be watched, Henry." He overheard Margaret Beaufort say to her son. 

"I'm sure you are more than capable of that, mother." 

Thomas heard Margaret's chuckle before the door closed behind him. 


 Anne did not know what to expect of Arthur. No one spoke of hi before or after the settling of The King's Great Matter. And Henry only talked about him when he was so deep in his cups that his memory would be lost the next morning. Anne remembered one night, a month or so before Henry had set upon his conscience, began to hear legal opinions for the first trial when the King had visited Hever and gotten drunk enough to go banging on Anne's door in a fever of misery.

As Anne followed Buckingham's instructions and walked down the crushingly narrow stairs and corridors of Dognerfield house, she was reminded of Hever. Her father had modified the mansion to open up every tunnel and dark burrow so that light lit every room, much as the palaces of France were styled. It made her home different than any other English manor she had visited. It was expensive, exotic, and somewhat awe inspiring. A bit like Hampton court but, more so, the opposite of Wolf Hall, the stone barn that she would not have even housed her dogs in, much less her family. Anne did suppose Jane was as much of a panting whore as any bitch in heat, so perhaps it suited the Seymours.

Anne was shaken from her musings by the first step of the staircase. She nearly pitched forward, heart spluttering in her chest as she felt her body drop out from beneath her head.  Catherine's slippered foot hit the first stair but Anne did not breath until she reached the door in front of her and even then her breath were shallow, constrained by a body unused to a proper, French corset. 

Catherine's slippers were soft and unhealed, making only the slightest of scuffing sounds that were almost drowned by the rustle of her skirts as she walked toward the door, arms swinging at her sides. She wanted to put them on her hips but instead gripped the sides of her skirts, fisting the fabric between her fingers. The door swung open.

Where was he? Anne thought as the sun blinded her eyes. Where was the prince?

In front of her were a group of nobles long dead before her time. Or banished. But she could recognize the nose of the Plantagenet de La Pole in a woman in a soft green dress and her own husband in the brown eyes of a woman she could only describe as the most disapproving creature she had seen. And Anne had once been threatened by a mob of merchant's wives at the start of Catherine's trial. 

Her former husband's divorce. First divorce. La Foutu homme. 

Anne forced herself to take a deep breath, eyes going up to the grey heavens. Where was the light? Anne wondered. There was a crow flapping overhears. 

When she looked back down at the earth, Anne's eyes landed upon the fifteen or sixteen year old boy in front of her. Next to his gaping father. Well, not gaping, that was too generous a term for the slight part of his highness, Henry VII-Her Henry's-thin lips. The Kings eyes ran up and down Anne's frame-Catherine's frame-before they fixed on a point just past her shoulder. Interesting, Anne thought. She'd known what those looks meant since Mary had tumbled with François I. He was a goodly man, the King. Of course he was, he looked like Henry had when his hair started to grey. 

"My lady," The young man in front of her said. "I welcome you to England." 

Anne looked at the boy. He had fair and large, sad, eyes that seemed somewhere between blue and green set around a thin Grecian nose in round cheeks. His chin could almost have been considered as pointed as Anne's but while her's had gifted her with a heart shaped appearance but on this boy it made him look more fragile than he likes was. He was Henry's brother after all.

"I thank you for your welcome." Anne responded. "Highness."

Then she curtsied. He bowed with all the ceremonial dignity of a bred prince that was duly rewarded with applause. 

"May I show you the gardens, my lady?"

Shall we go for a walk, my lady? Henry used to ask her; used to whisper in her ear as they danced or they sat together, eating. Then it had become; Shall we get some fresh air, my Nan?

They would stroll, laughing and talking at first but soon every stroll became some mad rush into a noon so that Henry could haul her skirts about her thighs and press his mouth to her most secret places. Anne doubted that his highness, Arthur, Prince of Wales had even had a woman beneath his tongue before. Anne's cheeks still reddened at the innocent query. 

"If my lord wishes," She curtsied as she agreed.

The gardens of Dogmersfield were plain and wet from the morning rain. Anne took deep breathes, filling her nostrils with the scent of grass that seemed tightened by the dew. There would be flowers blooming in the next few months. 

Arthur cleared his throat, a hacking sound that failed to interrupt Anne's enjoyment of her surroundings. She liked the trees in the distance but thought they might be more beautiful once the storm had passed. Apple trees, Anne realized. It had been her favorite feature of Hever. They differentiated her home from many of the grander palaces in London or Paris. Arthur cleared his throat again. Anne turned her head to admire the picturesque group of nervous, watchful nobles. Anne thought her glance rather unnerved the de la Pole in woman in the green dress. 

"Was your journey eventful, my lady?" Arthur, Prince of Wales asked her. She laughed, throwing her head back as she recognized the terrified grimace. Yes, that was Margaret de la Pole. Anne wouldn't have imagined the beleaguered the woman as any kind of beauty, but here she was, in the prime of life, and a pale skinned, doe eyed English rose. Like the Duchess of Suffolk had been. Anne sobered, eyes going back to the ground, smile dying on her cheeks. It was best not to think of that Mary. It was never best to think of Mary.

"My lady?" The Prince of Wales voice cracked as he spoke and he looked uncomfortable. Anne smiled again, this time at him. Arthur, this fifteen year old boy-that's what he'd been-cheek's darkened a shade better. His skin finally had some color. He raised a hand to his throat before, quick as a rabbit down a burrow he tucked his thumb back into his belt. 

"Your voice is growing in strength, my lord." Anne told him, clasping her hands in front of her. "There is nothing to be ashamed of."

"I am already a man grown," Arthur responded in a tone that made Anne think he was trying to convince himself more than her. "Soon I will be eighteen and a man wed."

Anne fixed her eyes firmly on her hands, trying to keep from laughing like a madwoman, again. Then the implication of what Arthur had actually said hit her.

"When?" Anne asked, more dully than she expected. Catherine's voice was deeper and duller than her own shriek, accented down. Anne had thought it was hypnotic in a way when she had first been sworn into her service. By that time, Catherine spoke with a clearly English accent, well, she did when she was not playing the role of the scorned wife. Anne hummed softly and then clicked her tongue, unsure of how to feel about that.

"On the twentieth of September." Arthur responded, looking concerned. "Where you not told of me?"

"More of England itself than of your or your siblings." Anne told him, having no idea what Catherine had or hadn't happened to know when she'd put her dirty Spanish foot on the Plymouth shoreline.

"Well," Arthur said slowly, earnestly, in a way that reminded Anne of George when he was talking to Mark or Jane. Jane Rochford not bland, ugly Jane Seymour. Anne wondered if any man other than her husband had actually bothered to look at that girl twice.

Henry had called her a witch. But thinking on it, Jane fit the term better. Henry was, at his worst, a greedy, selfish, lying, hypocrite of a king but Anne had never seen him as he was following that last jousting tournament. That pretty blond wench had done her best to alleviate his pain but every word, every touch had seemed to poison Henry against her. Maybe that was how Catherine felt the five months she was Arthur's wife, as if she was wed to some malevolent entity more than a man because of Arthur's foreignness.

"My sister Mary is the littlest." Arthur began. Anne noted that his voice was naturally high as he finally spoke with not the slightest hint of nervousness. "She turns eight in March. Meg-Margaret-though that is what everyone calls her on account of My Lady Grandmother and Lady De La Pole-is fifteen already."

"She's to wed the King of Scotts is she not?" Anne asked, memory beginning to work at a slow shot.

"No." Arthur responded, confused and clearly upset. "Who told you that?"

And clearly lying, Anne thought.

"There was a rumor in my mother's court." Anne lied smoothly. "The Ambassador had heard it was planned but that James might want an older bride instead."

"Well," Arthur hesitated. "It is no concern of mine nor yours, my lady."

Anne raised an eyebrow at him or would have if the the muscles of Catherine's forehead had had that kind of mobility. Arthur had immediately developed the visage of a scolded puppy, looking suitably reprimanded. Anne pressed him.

"And you have a brother, do you not?" She asked. It was unpleasant, the eager uptick of her heart beat when she said his name. It came combined with the bile of rage in her belly. It was like a crawling, diseased, desperate creature simply screaming for an end to it's pain.

"Henry." Arthur said.

When we were children, we were never close, Henry had told her, drunk. as children. I was at Eltham with any sisters and mother while he had Ludlow. I saw him maybe every six months until his wedding then I never saw him again. 

"He's sixteen and thinks himself a knight." Arthur told her. "But father wants him to go to the church, which means he knows more scripture than me."

Unless it was Yuletide, Henry had slurred, nuzzling into her belly. When he'd stay for a month and everything become about him.

"Watch your women about his friends, my lady." Arthur advised. "They are most ungallant."

Anne laughed and smiled at the prince beside her, not even noticing the offended knitting of his brow.

"Or perhaps too gallant." She teased, kicking her feet in the grass. She could see why perhaps Catherine had suggest Henry and her name their only living boy Arthur. The prince was a naive soul. Anne could already see how Catherine would have wanted her son to mimic him. Henry, on the other hand, had told her, stinking of wine, he'd gone back to his own quarters and cried over his brother for the first time when she'd asked him for that. 

"A knight cannot be gallant if he ravishes noble ladies." Arthur spluttered.

Were you jealous of Arthur? Anne had asked Henry that night in her bed while he faded into unconsciousness. 

No, Henry had said. I was too young to know what jealousy was. I wanted him dead though. 

"You misunderstand." Arthur responded. "To be gallant is to be virtuous and a good Christian man."

"Gallant can be defined as being valorous or being flirtatious." Anne corrected. "A suitor too, if you mean it as a verb, my lord."

There was a moment of silence where Anne felt a drop of rain upon her forehead. She looked up not to see only the rumbling but to see a lone crow flying against the harsh wind. When she looked back down a hare darted across her and Arthur's path. 

"I...." Arthur stuttered out, clearly having missed the animal while Anne froze, unable to take another step. 

"I wish to return in doors." Anne informed Arthur, turned on her heel and did just that. 

The second time Henry had told her about his dear, dead brother was when they were en route from Calais to England. They shared chambers on that voyage, broke bread, made love, drank wine and lived as man and wife tied together by their wedding the morning before their departure. Henry had married her in her traveling cloak just an hour before their ship ha sailed. But when they were abed together, blankets covering their nakedness while the waves rocked their boat, Henry had again spoken of Arthur. He spoke of wanting to raise their sons together, in one household. At Eltham perhaps, let us make it our royal nursery. I want our sons to always know one another as brothers, Anne. As I never knew mine. 


The day after Anne’s walk with Arthur, Catherine’s court left Dogmersfield. Arthur’s as well, Anne supposed, but she paid little mind to them. She was stuck in a liter with Maria de Salinas and Dona Elvira, who had been dead or in a convent somewhere by the time Anne had come home from France. She wanted to be on the back of a horse so that she could make Catherine’s thighs and ass chaff in the saddle. 

“Infanta?” Maria interrupted Anne’s train of thought. She must have been prattling about something or other. Her dress was hideous. It was a Spanish thing with a verdugado skirt, massive, dragging sleeves that hung untied from the wrist. Anne was certain that she herself would be forced into something just has hideous within the next few days. Perhaps she’d have time to stitch a few modifications, Anne thought. If she could just tie up the sleeves and pull the over dress over the stomacher to conceal the laces. Maybe bring the neckline down to just hint at her bosom. 

“Yes?” Anne asked, cocking her head to the side.

“Did the Prince tell you more about the sun and mercury?” 

What? 

“No,” She smiled softly, “It didn’t come up.”

Maria looked at Dona Elvira before ducking her head into Catherine’s shoulder and whispering. 

“Did he tell you about how he wanted to hold you underneath his body?” Maria asked. Anne tensed and snapped Catherine’s head around to glare at the blond woman. Maria only smiled up at her through her pursed lips.  

Saints Blood, Anne couldn’t even imagine Arthur thinking that. Well, he was a seventeen year old. But she doubted he’d have had the stomach to write filth. Anne looked at Maria through Catherine’s narrowed eyes and shook the Infanta’s head back and forth. 

“He was a proper gallant.” Anne told the Spanish woman. 

“A what?” Dona Elvira snapped. Anne glared at the older woman who sat there, half leaned forward with her mouth hanging open. Anne’s mother had never been much concerned with her daughter’s language. Elizabeth Howard had had much more to worry about than Anne and Mary’s language. 

“A gallant.” Anne told the Dona Elvira. “It means suitor.”

She bobbed her head and went back to her sewing. Maria smiled at Anne with her big eyes peering out of her pale cheeks. 

“What are you sewing?” Anne asked her. 

“A rose.” The future Baroness told her. Anne held out her hand and when Maria didn’t give her the little embroidery hoop she gestured for it. The Spanish woman’s embroidery was magnificent, the half finished Tudor Rose filled with the tightest of stitches. Anne wasn’t surprised, sewing was all Catherine had seemed to do when she was queen. 

“It’s lovely.” Anne said neutrally as she handed back the flower. 

“Thank you.”

“You should be finishing your own rose, Infanta.” Dona Elvira chimed in. Her comment was unwelcome. Anne looked down at the scrap of cloth on her lap and pursed Catherine’s fat lips. They were sensual, Anne had to admit that. She’d spent almost an hour the night before tracing her fingers over Catherine’s face. As an old woman Catherine’s jaw and cheekbones had been caked by her fat, her beautiful hair turned brown and grey and her mouth gone gross and lined with stress. But, lord, that woman was beautiful in her heyday. Anne could see why Henry had wed her, had chosen her above all others. Until me , Anne reminded herself. Until he met me. 

Anne remembered when he’d appeared at Hever just after dawn, having ridden through the night to her. It was after Dr. Butts had pronounced her and her father cured of the sweat. He had sprinted up to her room, the skin under his eyes blue from exhaustion and dropped to her knees before her. Anne remembered the crack they made as they hit the floor. Henry had looked up at her as if she was something holy. His hazel eyes had been wet with unshed tears and his mouth agape. 

“My god,” He’d choked out. “Thank god. Anne.”   

“I would like to ride tomorrow.” Anne told the two women in the liter, feeling overly warm and suddenly sick.

“If you wish, Infanta.” Dona Elvira assured her.