Adrianna was in a very happy mood the next morning. Only the doorman her father had instructed to wait for Adrianna was awake when she returned home the evening before so she had been able to go up to bed unquestioned by her father or sisters. She undressed herself; not bothering to fold her clothes neatly as she normally did but just threw them over the stool by her dressing table, and crawled into bed with a warm sense of satisfaction seeping through her.
The warmth hadn’t left her when she rose the next morning, humming quietly to herself as she fixed her cream mask in place and skipped down the stairs to breakfast.
“A good evening last night?” Vittoria asked stiffly across the table.
“Yes it was thank you,” Adrianna responded, acting as if she hadn’t heard the sharpness of her sister’s tone.
“Did Countess Novia take you out?” Luisa asked eagerly.
“None of your business,” Adrianna said playfully, almost jumping up from her chair and dancing out of the breakfast room. It seemed like nothing would dampen Adrianna’s spirits that morning. She was on top of the world and was determined to stay there for as long as possible.
Even her father noticed the change in her when he caught a glimpse of Adrianna dancing across the entrance hall and up the long staircase. He didn’t understand why Adrianna’s mood had suddenly taken a turn for the better but he wasn’t going to argue with it. If it meant she would be less resistant to his wishes then he wasn’t going to complain.
At about midmorning there was a knock on the door and a servant came to inform Adrianna that she had a visitor. For a brief second she allowed herself to think it was Matteo, but quickly told herself that he wouldn’t be allowed in the house, let alone anywhere near Adrianna. But she still walked briskly towards the drawing room, a joyful spring in her step.
“Lady Lagana,” she exclaimed as she entered the room and saw her friend’s face looking up at her from a chair. “Where have you been these past days? I was beginning to think you’d forgotten about me.”
“Of course I hadn’t,” Lady Lagana replied, rising from her chair to receive Adrianna’s embrace. “I’ve been organizing some business documents for my brother, you know what he’s like; can’t do anything without me. But you seem to be in a very good mood. What’s happened while I’ve been absent?”
“Nothing special,” Adrianna said, smiling secretly to herself.
“Come on Adrianna, you can tell me,” Lady Lagana insisted. “No one smiles like that for nothing.”
“I’ve just made some new friends that’s all,” Adrianna said cryptically. Lady Lagana’s face fell, suspicion beginning to arise in her stomach.
“What sort of new friends?”
“The friendly kind,” Adrianna replied, just as mysteriously as before. “People I can talk to and enjoy their company.”
“What do you mean people you can talk to? You haven’t been speaking to the wrong people have you?”
“It depends on your definition of wrong people,” Adrianna said defensively, knowing that Lady Lagana knew exactly what sort of friends she had been making.
“You silly girl!” Lady Lagana exclaimed. “Countess Novia has been speaking to you again, hasn’t she? She’s introduced you to her liberal minded friends and they’ve been pouring lies into your ear about what you should and shouldn’t believe.”
“I had these ideas long before I met Countess Novia,” Adrianna retorted. “I’m not stupid. I do have a working brain of my own which I can use to think of my own ideas.”
“But you shouldn’t say them out loud and you definitely shouldn’t associate with people who are known radicals.” Lady Lagana’s hand went straight to her mouth in shock. “You’ve spoken to him again.”
“I don’t know who you mean,” Adrianna said innocently.
“Don’t play the ignorant with me, you know exactly who I mean, that’s why you’re pretending not to understand. Matteo Contadino, that’s who we’re talking about.”
“I do remember the name, yes.”
“Well then? Have you spoken to him again?”
“What if I have?”
“You stupid girl! I told you he was trouble the first time you met him and you brazenly go and ignore my advice.”
“What can you do to stop me from speaking to who I want?” Adrianna retorted, sticking out her lower lip like a sulking child.
“I can speak to your father.”
“You wouldn’t dare,” Adrianna challenged.
“Don’t try my patience. I’ve always done the best I can for you, even when I’ve had to fight with your father to make him see sense and I’m not going to waste all that hard work now.”
“You aren’t my mother, so you can’t control me or tell me what to do.”
“But I made a promise to your mother that I would keep you safe and I will do whatever it takes to keep that promise, even if I have to tell your father the truth.”
Adrianna stood up violently from the seat she had been occupying, walking away from Lady Lagana and towards the wide window at the other end of the room.
“You are no longer welcome here,” she said, not turning to look at her guest as she spoke. “I think it is time you decided to leave.”
“Not until you’ve promised that you will never see or speak to Matteo Contadino ever again.”
“Good day, Lady Lagana,” Adrianna said, turning and staring fiercely at her friend, willing her to back off.
“Very well,” Lady Lagana said, preparing to leave. “But don’t think this doesn’t mean I won’t act. If I see you with anyone I think could ruin your reputation then I will go straight to your father.”
“Your concern is appreciated,” Adrianna said mockingly. “But you really needn’t waste your time.”
“This isn’t the end, Adrianna.”
“I’m sure it isn’t.”
“Then I’m glad you understand that. Good day.”
Adrianna watched Lady Lagana leave, her face held in its stony expression. It broke her heart to know that her oldest friend didn’t want her to follow what she believed in but sacrifices had to be made and Adrianna realised this was one of those decisions she had to make and she refused to let herself be beaten by it.