Adrianna was confined to her bed for the rest of the day and her visitors told she was suffering from a mild chill after forgetting her cloak when she went for a walk. She would usually have been outraged by this lie but for some reason Adrianna found it funny. The absurdity of the situation could prompt no other response.
The next day she was allowed out of bed but not permitted to take part in any form of strenuous activity. She also noticed a big purple mark appearing on her arm. It was in the shape of her father’s fingers where they had grabbed hold of her and held her fast. It was high enough up her arm to be concealed by the sleeves of her dress but she knew it was there.
Her father hadn’t been near her since the incident in his office. He had taken his meals in a separate room from the girls and had locked himself away in another room for most of the day. If Adrianna hadn’t caught glimpses of him in the hallways of their house she would have thought he had left.
Adrianna knew he must be feeling some guilt or why would he be avoiding her in the way he was? Maybe her father had some of the same violent temper Adrianna sometimes showed.
On the morning of the day after Adrianna was allowed out of bed, there was a knock at the door and a servant came to tell Adrianna she had a visitor. Dressed in a moss green dress and matching mask, her hair half pinned up, Adrianna entered the drawing room where her family received their visitors.
“Countess Novia,” Adrianna said surprised. “What a lovely surprise. What brings you here?”
“It’s only a flying visit, I promise. I have an invitation for you, Adrianna,” the Countess said, holding out an envelope. “There is a small, select gathering of people happening tonight. I wanted to know if you would come.”
Adrianna opened the envelope, her eyes scanning the embossed card inside from behind her mask. The card invited her to a gathering at an address she didn’t recognise to be held that evening.
“Who is the host? I wouldn’t want to ruin someone else’s party, uninvited.”
“It’s a friend of mine, Sir Eduardo. He holds gatherings for the same people quite regularly. I suggested that you might want to come along and be introduced to some like-minded people. He thought it was a good idea.”
“When you say like-minded people, do you mean people like Matteo Contadino?” Adrianna asked.
“Matteo will be there, and others like him. Like us.”
“I don’t think my father will let me go,” Adrianna said, putting the card down on a small table and fidgeting nervously.
“I can sort out your father and send a carriage to pick you up. That is if you decide to accept.”
“Then I accept,” Adrianna responded, her heart pumping with adrenaline at the thought of meeting with Matteo again. “As long as you sort out my father.”
“You do know I can’t tell him the truth,” the Countess warned. “You’ll have to lie and say you were somewhere else.”
“I know,” Adrianna replied, her hand subconsciously going to the bruise on her arm where her father’s finger’s had been. “But that’s a risk I’m willing to take.”
“Good. I know that there will be a lot of people happy to see you tonight.” The Countess stood up to take her leave, but Adrianna blocked her exit.
“Can you spare a few moments more?” She asked. “There is something I want to ask you.”
“Of course,” Countess Novia said, sitting back down and motioning for Adrianna to take the space next to her. “What did you want to ask?”
“My mother,” Adrianna said as she sat down. “Why did you two stop talking after I was born?”
“I’m not sure you should hear this story from me,” the Countess replied defensively.
“No one else is going to talk to me about it. You’re the first person who has been truly honest with me about what you believe. I trust you. No one else dares talk about my mother other than to say how much I’m like her. She died when I was three. I want to know more than what everyone else says.”
“Do you really want to know the truth about your mother and me?”
“Yes,” Adrianna insisted.
“It is true what everyone else says, that you are like your mother. She had the same strong political views as you, even if she wasn’t quite as outspoken. Together she and I were going to take on the world and no one would be able to stop us.”
“She believed in women’s rights?”
“She was our leader,” Countess Novia smiled. “She was going to show us the way forward and lead the revolution. But life gets in the way of things. She married Duke Giordano and became more detached. She moved in a different circle to the rest of us. Your father was the rising star of the political world back then.”
“So you drifted apart?”
“I suppose you could say that. But I knew that your mother still had the same views as she always did. When you were born she sent a message to me, saying how proud she was that her first-born child was a girl. She said that she was going to teach you that you could do anything you wanted, even though you were a girl. That was the last I ever heard from her.”
“I don’t know, but I suspect your father may have had something to do with it.”
“What do you mean?”
“Your father was never my biggest fan. But that’s all in the past,” she said, trying hard to change the subject. “We’ve got to look to the future. I’ll go speak to your father now and send a carriage to pick you up at twilight.”
Adrianna could tell that the Countess wasn’t going to let her start up a conversation about her mother again.
“That sounds perfect. I’m looking forward to it.”