The pair walked off around the room in silence for a few moments, taking each other in.
“I’ve been told that you are interested in politics,” Adrianna said, breaking the silence.
“Who told you that?”
“She seems to have an interest in both of us. She took great delight in telling me about your interest in radical politics.”
“What do you think about that? Women shouldn’t have an interest in politics.”
“They should have the right to have an interest. Women shouldn’t have to be pretty dolls with no ideas of their own, they should be able to talk about things like politics and not be punished for it.”
“Why would you think that? You’re not a woman, you don’t have to fight to have your voice heard. Why should you bother fighting for us?”
“Because I believe in a fairer country and that’s not going to happen if half our people have no representation. I know a lot of other countries have limited representation for women but Verenia is decades behind any other country. We have to take some steps to keep up with other countries or we’re going to end up stuck in the dark ages.”
“I completely agree. The way our society is run is archaic, we need to do something new to strengthen ourselves or we’re going to end up being at the mercy of other, bigger, stronger countries. Madrimar and Fersere both have equal rights for women, Fersere even as a female ruler, and they are perfectly capable of wiping us out if they choose.”
“Adrianna.” Lady Lagana came hurrying over towards Matteo and Adrianna, separating them by pulling the young woman gently away. “What are you doing?”
“We were just talking,” Adrianna protested, confused by her friend’s stern tone.
“I thought you would know better,” she said, turning on Matteo, almost like she knew him. “You’re leading her off onto the wrong path and it won’t just be you who gets hurt if Duke Giordano finds out, you’ll ruin me and Adrianna as well.”
“But if this country allowed equal rights for women then we wouldn’t have to worry about Adrianna being ruined.”
“But as the situation stands we have to worry about that and it’s my job to protect her welfare.”
“What’s going on? Can you tell me what you’re on about?” Adrianna protested, trying to get Lady Lagana to look at her.
“Come with me,” she replied, taking a firm hold on Adrianna’s arm and pulling her away.
“What are you doing?” Adrianna protested as she allowed herself to be pulled away. “We were just discussing ideas, that’s all.”
“Matteo Contadino has a reputation for ‘discussing ideas’ as you call it. Everyone knows his views on politics and there are very few people who agree with him.”
“But Countess Novia said-“
“Countess Novia wasn’t thinking properly when she introduced you to him. She knows exactly what the score is and thought she could convince you to join into her scheme to change the way our country is run. Things like that don’t just happen overnight, they take time.”
“But someone’s got to start it. What if Matteo and Countess Novia are one of the people who starts the revolution and-“
“Don’t say that word again. This conversation ends now. I don’t want you going anywhere near Matteo Contadino ever again and if I hear one more word about politics from you I will have to speak to your father about it.”
“I thought you supported me,” Adrianna breathed, shocked at this new side to her friend she had never seen before.
“I will support your beliefs Adrianna. But if it’s going to get you into trouble then I can’t stand by and let you blindly crash your way towards disaster. I promised your mother I would do what I thought was best when it came to looking after you and your sisters and so far it hasn’t been the most vexing task in the world because you have always let me know how you feel and what you want to do and it’s always made perfect sense. This I don’t see the logic in.”
“He’ll help me stand up for what I believe in. He wants the same things I do.”
“He’s dangerous,” Lady Lagana warned. “He knows too many wrong people and not enough right ones. I just want what’s best for you Adrianna, and talking politics with him is not going to keep you safe.”
“I appreciate your concern,” Adrianna said stiffly, “but sometimes you have to take risks and step into danger in order for things to get better. Now if you don’t mind I’m going to get a drink.”
“Don’t blame me for this,” Lady Lagana said before Adrianna walked away. “I wish I didn’t have to protect you against things like this but I’m doing it for you, to protect you from your father and the rest of the world. I couldn’t bear to see you an outcast.”
“I’m an adult, I can look after myself.”
“Don’t be like that Adrianna. You don’t-“
“I don’t want to hear anymore. I shall see you later, Lady Lagana.” Adrianna swiftly curtsied, not as low as would have been expected, and swept away.