The atmosphere at breakfast the next morning was tense to say the least. The Duke and his second daughter, Vittoria, were already at the table when Adrianna came down, fully dressed in a navy blue dress with matching dark mask.
“Good morning,” she said softly as she sat down. There was no response from either of her relatives but she decided not to say anything. She knew she was still in trouble with her father for the stunt she almost pulled the night before and she could feel Vittoria’s eyes judging her from behind her own cream mask.
As Adrianna helped herself to an orange from the bowl of fruit in the centre of the table and began to peel it, the doors flew open and her youngest sister, Luisa, came flying into the room.
“Oh good you’re awake,” the young girl exclaimed, hurrying over to take the seat next to her eldest sister. “Tell me about last night. Was it fun? Did you dance with all the men? I bet they were all really handsome.”
“Stop prattling on, Luisa,” Vittoria snapped. “It was just a party, stop pretending like it was something exciting.”
“But parties are exciting,” Luisa insisted, unperturbed by Vittoria’s sharp tone. “The dresses and the dancing.”
“Vittoria’s right,” Adrianna said, attempting to divert a family row as she saw the Duke’s face grow more strained. “It wasn’t all that exciting, just a lot of people standing around talking about politics. You would have been bored out of your mind, I promise you.”
Luisa’s face fell, disappointed not to be getting all the gossip from her sister’s presentation party. Luisa adored her eldest sister, anyone could see that, but at times she could be a little too much.
“Have some fruit,” Adrianna said, changing the subject. “The oranges are supposed to be very good this time of year.”
Luisa obliged and took an orange from the table, peeling it in the same way as her sister and eating it in silence, having picked up on the tension in the room.
“Please excuse me,” Vittoria said, once her plate was clear. “I have some letters to write this morning.”
The Duke nodded, indicating that she could leave, but didn’t even glance in his daughter’s direction as she left the room. With Vittoria’s exit, some of the tension was relieved but Adrianna still felt like something was still left unsaid.
“Luisa, will you leave us?” The Duke said, breaking the silence.
“But I’ve only just-“
“That was not a request Luisa. Leave, now.”
Thankfully Luisa had picked up on her father’s tension and didn’t protest any more, leaving the room without another word. Adrianna suddenly felt very vulnerable, sitting alone with her father. He clearly wanted to say something about last night, she just wasn’t sure what exactly. Was it going to be about the mask? Or the fuss he’d made over the young girl she’d been talking to? Or was it her slip up with the Count?
“Adrianna we need to talk about what happened last night,” he said firmly, not looking up from his plate.
“What about last night, Father?”
“You know what I mean, Adrianna. Trying to appear at your first social gathering without a mask. Did you even think about what sort of repercussions that might have on me? And on top of that you were acting strangely all evening, even Count Alberto picked up on it.”
“I don’t understand,” Adrianna said, genuinely confused. “I thought I was behaving properly.”
“You were distant, you hardly said a word to any of your guests and when you did it was a disinterested comment about how wonderful the country looks at this time of year.”
“I’m sorry if I wasn’t interesting enough for you but it’s only because I didn’t know what to say. You’ve told me what I shouldn’t talk about; politics, money or power, but you’ve mentioned nothing about what I am meant to talk about.”
“I can’t script every conversation for you. You are a young woman, surely you can think of something interesting to talk about. You talk all day with Lady Lagana, what do you say to her?”
“That’s different,” Adrianna protested, her voice reaching a higher pitch than was strictly necessary. “Lady Lagana is an old friend, almost like a mother to me, you know that. I can talk about anything with her because she knows me. I’m not going to do that with a complete stranger.”
“Well you’re going to have to learn to,” the Duke ordered.
“And we talk about all the things you said I shouldn’t mention,” Adrianna continued.
“I don’t like your interest in politics, Adrianna. It’s not suitable for a young woman to fill her head with how the country is run, it should not concern you.”
“But it does concern me because it’s the people who run this country that determine the fact that I must hide my face and do as I am told by men in order to be accepted in society.”
“There is no law that says you must wear a mask in order to be accepted.”
“There might not be a law written down that states I must wear a mask, but would you let me leave the house without one?”
“Of course not. You are a woman of high social status, you cannot be seen without a mask.”
“This is my point!”
“I don’t like your tone, Adrianna,” the Duke said, standing up and leaning across the table menacingly. “Unless you change your attitude then you are going to land yourself in serious trouble.”
Adrianna bit her lip to stop herself from talking back.
“You’re going to a party at Countess Novia’s tonight. I want you to behave properly this time, then maybe last night will pass as nerves. Do you understand?”
“May I go now?”