Chapter 11.2Mature

“Rowena told me about your predicament with Alberto,” Artem said, moving across the room to take a seat near the window.  “Sorry to hear that you’re in such a tight spot.  I know if Rowena had been under the same restrictions as you when she and I met then we wouldn’t be here today.  Rowena wouldn’t have even needed to be locked away as a political hostage because she wouldn’t have stood a chance of inheriting the crown.  That and she would have exploded from frustration.”

“Really?”  Adrianna questioned, moving hesitantly towards Artem and taking a seat in the armchair next to him.  “Rowena doesn’t strike me as the sort of person who would let those emotions take over.  She always seems to be quite calm.”

“She is,” Artem agreed.  “Most of the time.  But she can have her moments.  Trust me when I say that you don’t want to get in her way if she’s backed into a corner because she can be pretty vicious.”

“I’m sure she’s not as bad as you’re implying.”

“I don’t think it is a bad thing,” Artem insisted.  “It’s that fight that I love about her and separates her from the placid and docile princesses of other countries who blindly do what they’re told, no offence intended.”

“None taken,” Adrianna said.  “I would only take offence if I knew it were true.  But when it comes down to it the women of my country only do what they are told because that’s the way it’s been done for thousands of years and if anyone steps out of line then they are cast out from society and made an example of.  No woman willingly does exactly what she is told.”

“Especially not you,” Artem said quietly.  “I see a lot of Rowena’s spirit in you.  I can understand why she likes you so much.”

“And why shouldn’t I?”  Rowena said, emerging from the bedroom with a thin cloak to wrap wear against the chill that had risen that morning.  “Adrianna is a very likable young woman with many interesting things to say.  Now, husband dearest, if you’re ready I suggest we go downstairs to meet Prince Niccolo and begin our day.”

“Very well,” Artem said, rising from his chair, Adrianna not far behind him.  “What do we have the pleasure of doing today?”

“Prince Niccolo will take us on a carriage ride around the city, stopping somewhere for a meal at midday.  Then in the afternoon he wants to introduce us to another group of influential members of his court.”

“Sounds like a fun day,” Artem said sarcastically.  “Might as well get it over with as soon as possible.”

“I’m sorry to have invited you to do this,” Rowena said to Adrianna as they left the guest rooms and walked back the way she had come towards the grand entrance hall.  “I thought it would be nice for you to be out and about, but now I see that it is probably just unbelievably boring.”

“I really don’t mind,” Adrianna insisted.  “It is much better than being stuck at home, confined to my room and not being allowed to speak to anyone, not even my own sisters.”

“Your father can really do that?”

“He can do whatever he likes.  He’s one of the most influential nobles in the Prince’s court and he has practically total power over me; he can treat me as he chooses.  But I am lucky,” she hastily added.  “Many young girls are beaten by their fathers or brothers or husbands.  My father only hits me when he’s very angry and forgets himself and that doesn’t happen very often.”

“Your father hits you?”  Rowena exclaimed, stopping in her tracks and turning taking Adrianna’s shoulders in both hands.

“Like I said, very rarely.  And most of the time it’s because I’ve done something to displease him so much that he doesn’t really know what he’s doing.  He is always apologetic afterwards, not that it makes the bruises go away but it shows that he cares a little.”

“My darling girl,” Rowena said, hugging Adrianna with a warmth and tenderness that surprised the Verenian girl.  “You shouldn’t have to make excuses for things like that.  No one should.  I have seen some bad things in my time but no young girl should have to endure being hit by their father, no matter what the cause.”

“It’s very common,” Adrianna said matter-of-factly.  “Like I said; I’m one of the lucky ones.”

“Rowena?”  Artem called.  He’d walked ahead of the two women and hadn’t noticed that they had stopped following him and fallen behind.  “Is everything alright?”  He asked.

“Yes,” Adrianna said.  “Everything’s fine.  I just told Rowena something a little shocking that I shouldn’t have.  I’m very sorry and I was hoping that you could forget about everything I said.  I would really appreciate it.”

Rowena said nothing in return but a slight nod of the head indicated to Adrianna that she would say no more on the subject of her father’s treatment of his children.

“Very well,” Artem said, not convinced.  “If we’re all fine then shall we continue?  It wouldn’t do to keep Prince Niccolo waiting.”

“I wouldn’t worry about that,” Adrianna said boldly.  “He could do with being kept waiting for a while and you two seem to be the perfect pair to do it.  He won’t question you or reprimand you.  He needs your favour too much.”

“You say the oddest things,” Artem said, a crooked grin crossing his face.  “Anyway, let’s go.  The sooner we leave the sooner we’ll be able to come back.”

The End

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