Adrianna’s father was nowhere to be seen when she arrived home so she disappeared straight to her room to unpin her hair and change out of her heavy and hot clothes. She had just changed into a soft muslin gown when there was a quiet knock on the door.
“Adrianna?” Came a familiar whisper from outside the room.
“Come in,” Adrianna whispered back. The door opened and Luisa crept into the room, shutting the door as quietly as she could behind her.
“I have a letter for you,” she said, reaching into the hidden pocket in the skirt of her dress and pulling out a small folded square of paper. Adrianna grabbed it hungrily, knowing exactly who it was from. She smiled when she saw Matteo’s handwriting and her eyes quickly skimmed over the words, taking in his reply to the message she had sent him earlier that morning.
“Thank you, Luisa,” Adrianna said once she’d finished reading, pulling her youngest sister into a tight embrace.
“It’s from him, isn’t it?” Luisa asked. “What did he say?”
“Nothing important, just confirming some plans for tomorrow night.”
“What are you doing tomorrow? Is he sneaking in again?” Luisa’s eyes were bright with excitement as she gazed eagerly up at her sister, hungry for information about Adrianna’s secret love affair.
“Not exactly,” Adrianna said, smiling happily to herself.
“Please tell me. You know I can keep a secret.” Luisa’s eyes were so pleading and her tone begged Adrianna to tell her the whole truth that she had to give in a little.
“Matteo is coming here tomorrow night and he’s going to help me sneak out of the house.”
“Where are you going? Father will kill you if he finds out you’re sneaking out.”
“He won’t find out.”
“But he will,” Luisa insisted. “He knows everything and he always finds out the truth in the end.”
“He doesn’t know about Matteo,” Adrianna pointed out, “and he doesn’t know that I’ve snuck out before. As long as you don’t tell him, there is no reason why he should ever find out about what I’ve been doing.”
“You’ve got out before? When?”
“Last week. I’m going to the same place tomorrow.”
“Oh, please tell me where it is you’re going.” Luisa was almost jumping up and down with excitement, forgetting herself and letting her voice rise above a whisper so Adrianna had to tell her to quiet down.
“I’m going to a meeting, a political meeting, where Matteo speaks about his views.”
“Can you take me with you?” Luisa asked, grabbing her sister’s hand and squeezing it imploringly.
“Of course I can’t,” Adrianna replied.
“Why not? I really, really want to go. I won’t be any trouble, I promise, I’ll be quiet and not say anything all evening.”
“It’s not that. I can’t take you with me because I have an important job for you to do here.”
“Yes,” Adrianna said. “It’s your job to make sure that Father doesn’t come into my room and see that I’m gone. I will be disappearing at around suppertime so you have to either keep him occupied or make sure he stays in his study for the rest of the evening. Can you do that for me?”
Luisa nodded enthusiastically. “You can count on me.”
“Thank you,” Adrianna said, smiling fondly down at her sister.
“And you’ll tell me all about it when you get back?” Luisa asked slyly.
“I’ll tell you all the exciting things that happened,” Adrianna promised. “Now run along before someone hears that you are in here. I’m still meant to be in isolation.”
Luisa hugged her sister one last time, a big grin across her face, before hurrying to the door and leaving the room, checking first to see if there was anyone in the corridor outside.
Adrianna smiled as her sister left. She felt so much love for her youngest sibling. Although she was seventeen years old, she still had a child-like view of the world and an excitement about life that Adrianna had never had. She envied Luisa her positive attitude and simple view of the world.
Adrianna moved over to the window seat and curled up, Matteo’s letter on her lap as she began to re-read it. She hadn’t expected him to reply so quickly to the letter she had sent him, but, as ever, he had managed to surprise her. She traced the ink with her fingers, imagining his pen shaping the letters. The letter was signedwith all my love, a phrase that sent Adrianna’s heart racing. He promised he would be there to help her get out of the house and take her toThe Prancing Lion. She couldn’t wait to see his face appear at her window again, smiling and holding out a hand to help her down.
She gazed out of the window, almost as if she believed that if she looked hard enough he would appear. But the garden continued to darken into the evening and Matteo didn’t appear.
Soon, she told herself. I’ll see him soon.
Adrianna climbed down from the window seat, the garden pitch black outside apart from the glow of candles coming from the rooms on the ground floor. She didn’t call for a maid to help her undress, unlacing first her dress, then her corset by herself, dressing herself in her nightgown and curling up under the blankets on her bed.
She closed her eyes and imagined that Matteo was lying next to her, his dark eyes smiling as his hand caressed her face, brushing a stray strand of hair off her skin.
I love you, he said, his lips forming the words but no sound coming out.
“I love you,” Adrianna whispered out loud, smiling as she drifted off into sleep.