Adrianna made her way up to her bedroom to pretend to go to bed early about an hour before dinner. That way she could be in bed for a good time before dinner just in case anyone decided to come up and check on her. Then, when the rest of the household was at dinner, she would change into her darkest clothes and sneak out the back window. Nobody would see her.
Her maid helped her undress as normal, unpinning her hair and putting the used pins in the small pot on Adrianna’s dressing table. When Adrianna was in her nightgown and her hair hanging loose around her, the maid was dismissed. No sooner had the door shut behind the maid was it opened again, this time by a red-faced Vittoria.
“Why aren’t you coming to dinner?” She said straight at Adrianna.
“Pardon?” Adrianna replied, the question not registering in her brain.
“Why have you told Father that you won’t be attending dinner tonight? It’s a stupid idea.”
“I also told Father that I wasn’t attending dinner tonight because I want to be fresh for Prince Niccolo’s party tomorrow night. If Father expects me to be able to catch someone of royal blood as my husband I’ve got to make a good impression.”
“You’re up to something,” Vittoria said, her eyebrows joining together in the centre of her forehead in a frown.
“What would make you think that?”
“You don’t want to marry Alberto. You think the way your marriage is arranged is inhuman so why would you want to impress Prince Niccolo?”
“Maybe I’ve had a change of heart.”
“No,” Vittoria insisted. “You are Adrianna Giordano, you don’t have a change of heart. You stick to what you think, right or wrong, until the bitter end. Why are you doing this?”
“Because I have to,” Adrianna snapped. “You learn that sometimes there are things you just have to do, no matter how much you hate them or disagree, you find that there’s just nothing you can do about it.”
Vittoria was silent as she watched her sister gesture frantically and stare angrily into thin air. There was a horrid moment of silence where Adrianna wasn’t sure if Vittoria had bought her act, but that moment was quickly cleared by Vittoria closing the gap between them and hugging her sister.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered.
“It’s not your fault. I shouldn’t have shouted at you like that, it should be me saying sorry.”
“I just didn’t know you were under such pressure.”
“Well, it’s my job to protect you and your sister by marrying a rich and influential husband. I’ll leave the radical talk to Luisa. At least if I do this then she might get a chance of being who she wants to be.”
“I love you,” Vittoria said. “And I appreciate what you’re doing.”
“Go down to dinner,” Adrianna ordered, pulling away from her sister. “Father will wonder where you are if you’re late. And I need to get my rest for tomorrow or missing dinner will have all been for nothing. I’ll see you in the morning.”
Vittoria smiled at her elder sister before turning and leaving the room. Adrianna watched her go, a twinge of guilt biting her stomach as she watched her go. She didn’t like lying but she saw no other way of getting what she wanted. Vittoria would understand in the end, Adrianna was sure of it.
She jumped into bed, pulling the covers over her to ensure no one doubted that Adrianna was asleep in bed were they to come and check on her. She waited until she could hear the clink of plates coming from along the hallway that led to the dining room from the servant’s staircase before getting out of bed again.
She went over to her wardrobe and took out her thickest black dress, putting it over the end of her bed while she searched for her corset. She then proceeded to dress herself with more difficulty than she had thought there would be. Her maid had made it look so easy but Adrianna couldn’t work out how she dressed her so well.
By the time Adrianna had wrestled herself into her corset and dress, there was no time for her to do anything with her hair so she simply pinned the wild curls at the front back and out of her face. Without a second thought she went to the draw in her dressing table that held her masks and brought out the pitch black one that she wore with her dress.
She looked down at the mask and it looked back up at her. Adrianna didn’t know whether or not to put it on. She assumed the people she would be meeting wouldn’t care if Adrianna was wearing a mask or not, she just didn’t know if she was brave enough to take the plunge and leave it behind.
After a good few moments of dithering, Adrianna put the mask to her face and tied the silk ribbons around the back of her head, securing them in place with a couple of pins.
Then came the trickiest bit of all. Adrianna went to her window and looked out. The old orange tree was below her window, as it had always been, but there was a drop of a couple of feet in between her windowsill and the topmost branch.
Taking a deep breath Adrianna sat on the edge of the windowsill, swinging her legs over so they were hanging outside.
“This is it,” she told herself. “Don’t chicken out now.”
Using all her strength she lowered herself down from the windowsill, her feet finding the occasional foothold in the brickwork that formed the outside wall of the house. When she found a solid brick to stand on, she carefully turned herself around so she was facing the wall, her hands still gripping the windowsill.
The tree was only a few inches away now and Adrianna thought she could step onto a strong looking branch about a foot further down. She still had some more reach in her arms so she clung to the windowsill as she attempted to walk down the wall.