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It was the winter of 1515. I was 15, and lived with my mother in Wittenberg, Germany. I was out on the frozen lake, along with the rest of our town, playing and sliding around on the ice.
“Nezetta! Nezetta!” I quickly turned on the ice to the sound of my name and saw Jakob barreling towards me on the ice.
“Whoa….Can’t…S...Stop!” warned Jakob, but it was too late and Jakob crashed into me and sent me soaring into the ice before I could move. Jakob was bigger than I. He towered over almost everyone, and his bronze hair barely reached his neck.
The sound of our laughter blended in with the other children’s as Jakob picked himself off from on top of me. He took both my hands, pulled me up, and then pulled me into a tight hug. We laughed some more. Jakob dropped his arms, but still held one of my hands as we slid across to the other end of the lake.
“So,” Jakob started, “I was calling after you to see if you wanted to walk back up to my house and look at a painting I finished?” I turned to see his face, only to find his dark green eyes staring back.
“Of course! Let’s go!” Jakob pulled me up off the lake edge and into the deep snow. I ignored the concerned and disapproving looks from my mother, and followed Jakob up to his house. Ever since Jakob’s father had gotten him the paintbrush, Jakob had been painting everything in sight. I’d have to admit, he wasn’t that bad either.
We reached his house and setting out, propped on a chair, was a small canvas. Jakob reached out, pulled off the sheet, and stood behind his ‘masterpiece’.
“So? How is it?” Jakob asked his eyes full of fear from what I would say.
I brought my eyes down from his and laid them upon the painting. The brown eyes staring back at me were familiar, along with the wavy brunette hair, and the lips. They were mine. The whole face of this girl was mine. Jakob had painted me.
I was at a loss of words, and I finally managed to stammer out a few words, “It’s…it’s…me. It’s beautiful.” Jakob was easing his way back to me, but my eyes were stuck on the painting. The neck of the girl wore a pretty blue stone, and her hair was pulled back behind her ears.
“So you like it?” Jakob was much closer to me now.
“Yes.” I replied. Jakob gently picked up my hand, and brought it up to his face. He leaned forward, and brought his lips gently to mine. My heart fluttered helplessly.
“Good,” he whispered, “I want you to keep it.” He dropped my hand and went to pick up the painting. “I’m headed to Florence to work more on my art Nezetta. I’m not sure when I’ll be back.”
I paused. What did he just say? He was…leaving? I sucked in a few breathes. Okay, he was going to Florence. Surely he wouldn’t be gone that long, and until then I would look at the painting every day. I could accept this.
I kept the painting, and after winter Jakob left for Florence, and left me here in Wittenberg. Yes, I was sad, but many other things had started over the years while Jakob was still gone.
A man named Martin Luther had started to criticize the church, and said that selling indulgences was sinful. My mother began to follow what Luther was saying, and she lost faith in the church, and trusted only the practices in the Bible. A while after that, Martin Luther was banned from the church on January 3, 1521. My life continued, and every day, I looked at the painting from Jakob and remembered my last winter with him.
On 28th of January, Charles V presided over an assembly in a town called Worms. My mother told me that Martin Luther was put on trial for what he believed. On the 25th of May, 1521, Charles V decreed an issue called the Edict of Worms, which addressed Martin Luther. Many of the people in my city choose to ignore it, including me.
I woke up one morning in June, 1521, when the sun brightened my room and filled it with light. I got up, stretched, and looked over to my painting. The surface was cracked, and I stepped over to touch it. Right when I picked it up, my mother loudly came into my room and startled me. My hands slipped over the surface of the old canvas, and it dropped to the floor. The painting was six years old, so naturally, when it hit the floor, it broke apart.
Two days after sulking about the painting, I decided I was going to go to Florence, and after six years of staying here, hopefully find my Jakob. A month later I arrived in Florence. The city was full of busy citizens when I arrived, and everyone was moving around doing something. There was music coming from somewhere, and kids playing in the streets. The sun made a bright glow over Florence, and it was the second most beautiful site I had ever seen.
I walked around for about an hour, and eventually I found a place to stay. What caught my eye; however, was not the place itself, it was the view. When I glanced up to see the sky I noticed a dome far in the distance. I recognized it from a drawing from a printed book. It still amazed me how Guttenberg created printing, in 1439. The dome was the dome of the Florence Cathedral. It had a distinctive glow as the sun was setting behind it. I remembered that Jakob had told me that in 1436 an artist named Brunelleschi had completed it. The dome was beautiful.
Since I was in the city of art, I decided to brush up on my art so when I found Jakob, he would be impressed. First, on a day out on the town, I met an interesting aspiring artist. His name was Leo. He told me about an artist named Michelangelo. He said his favorite was a piece called The Doni Tondo, and that it was here in Florence. He also made me aware of a marble sculpture, called the Statue of David, completed in 1504. I ended up staying with this boy for a week or two.
I searched Florence high and low for Jakob until one day I was about to give up and go home. It was now November, and I hadn’t found Jakob anywhere. I packed the little items I had, said goodbye to Leo, and decided to take one last long look at the Florence Cathedral Dome., this time up close. I slowly walked my way through the roads, not watching where I was going and then BAM! I ran smack into someone.
“Oh! I am so sorry! I wasn’t watching and…I’m just so sorry.” I apologized as I picked myself up off the ground, and brushed the dust off my dress.
“Nezetta?” I froze at the sound of this voice. It couldn’t be….
“Nezetta, is that you?” I was still frozen in place, but familiar arms wrapped me up in a hug before I could even look up.
“Oh it is you! You don’t know how I’ve missed you! I kept trying to come back home but my art was doing so great here! Nezetta I missed you.” Jakob swung me around and around in the streets until people started to stare.
“Oh! Jakob. How are you? I’ve missed you too!” We grabbed each other once more into a hug, and Jakob dropped his arms, but still held one of my hands. He told me how he was fine, and all about his artwork here, and asked how I was doing. Of course I replied with long stories about Martin Luther and people back home. Jakob’s green eyes distracted me every time I looked up, but he laughed when I blushed, and it was just like when I was 15. When he asked me to stay with him, I only replied with a smile, and he met that with a gentle, warm kiss.
I stayed with Jakob for a couple weeks, until he came back home one day and asked me a surprising question.
“Do you want to go to Vatican with me?” He just stood there, staring at me.
I was stunned, and surprised, but I knew that I would go anywhere with this man so I replied with a “yes” and we left the following day.
On our way there, Jakob talked to me about how he wanted to see the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel that Michelangelo had completed in 1512, and how he really wanted to be able to see the main panel, The Creation of Adam. We reached our destination, and Jakob was able to see The Creation of Adam. He told me that God looked like a classical depiction of Zeus, but I did not understand what he meant.
A year went by, and we moved back to Jakob’s favorite city, Florence. A couple days after our arrival, Jakob asked me to spend the rest of my life with him. Of course I replied with a yes, and we got married in winter.