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At night you can hear the wooden gondolas rocking in the water, knocking up against the stone walls and disturbing the silent calm of the night ocean. Normally the only living souls awake at that time of the night are the rats that creep through the cobblestone narrow streets and linger in the sewers below. Venice is a city of the night though, and on this particular masquerade night all the nobles had been out to play. Adorned in their colorful masks and golden foiled garments they were all as lit as the moon and still stumbling home on the feces and mud covered streets when the moonlight caught their travels. Among them was someone who wasn’t inebriated however, someone who wasn’t stumbling but running as swiftly as they could, weaving in and out of drunken pedestrians with the skirt of her dress being hiked up enough for her to pump her thighs in a fluid stride. Every now and then her fingers would lose their grip on the dense golden fabric of her skirt and she’d have to readjust but for the most part only her shimmery slippers were covered in mud and the hem on her dress happened to escape destruction.

If others hadn’t been so drunk they probably would’ve noticed her. Her masquerade mask covered half her face; her tanned skin gave away her identity only a little. Out of the noble families in Venice only one old family had tanned skin from years of toiling on the water and it was the Fanucci’s. Wild auburn curls with streaks of fiery red flowed over her shoulders and bounced as she ran. Emerald eyes sparked with bursts of yellow peered through the holes in her ornate teal mask and quickly moved from person to person. Tearing around a corner she streaked up the steps of a burnt orange building and burst in through the door, past the many surprised maids who were working on cleaning up in the downstairs kitchen. Up she went to the higher tower of the flat, followed by a handmaiden whom she quickly lost by shouting at her to leave her be.

Stunned and hurt the handmaiden abided and quietly returned downstairs to the kitchen as the noblewoman slammed her bedroom door behind her and tore off her mask. Tossing it onto the bed she began undoing the corset of her dress and quickly let it fall to the floor. Left only in her nightgown which was slightly falling off of her right shoulder due to her hastened attempt to undress she paused as she caught a glimpse of herself in the corner mirror. Her brow furrowed, candlelight flickering onto her face as she moved closer to the mirror, reaching up and touching her cheeks. The dark freckles in her already dark complexion were her focus. The more she looked at them the more her eyes began to glimmer as tears started to fill her eyes. But sadness wasn’t what read on her features, she began digging her nails into the skin on her face but before breaking the skin she broke down. Anger was what read on her countenance as she shut her eyes tightly and crumbled to the floor, pulling at her arms to wrap them tighter around her torso. Crying quietly into her chest she shook her head and glared up at her reflection one more time.

“Whore.” The one word she muttered through her tears as she stared at herself in the mirror, transfixed by the angry young woman who stared back at her. “They laugh at me, think they can use me, and sell me to the highest royal bidder. Call me whore. My family…” She murmured more and more, revealing that the masquerade evening hadn’t really gone quite as she’d planned. “My family deserves better. Maybe I shouldn’t exist…maybe they’re right.” Having attended the ball in order to redeem her family name she’d quickly learned that most of her royal suitors at the ball were only interested in her for the fact that she could be used as a whore, not a lady, not a queen. They made it clear that they looked down on her and her father for having married a foreigner with dark skin. Her mother had passed away in childbirth and her father followed her a year later out of despair. Out of the generosity of her uncle’s heart she was welcomed by the family. However no one in the family had fully accepted her, even her uncle. He felt that she wasn’t fit to oversee their family house or to carry their family name so for over a year now he’d expected her to go to every royal affair in town and find a suitor to marry so that she could finally not be a burden to his family.

But Elyse was much more than just another pretty face or a body. She knew she was capable of ruling this family, maybe even more. The biggest mistake her uncle made was following her father’s dying wish and sending her to one of the best universities in Italy. She came back home with thoughts and ideas that no woman of her stature should have. He began to see her as a threat to his ruling. Which was why Elyse Fanucci did not notice that there was a stranger in the corner of her room with her and she was not aware that her uncle really wanted her dead and out of the way entirely so that he could finally have control of the funds that she currently controlled.

Thrusting her fist into the mirror (right at the reflection of her face) it cracked around her knuckles but didn’t shatter, just cut into her skin. Blood seeped through her cuts as she pulled her fist away and turned it over to look at her open palm which was shaking. “I can’t do this.” She said through a quivering voice as her eyes steadied on her fractured reflection. That’s when she caught a glimpse of the stranger in the corner and gasped, turning on the floor to look at him with the eyes of a broken and confused young woman, clasping hold of her night gown and chest as she managed to stammer out weakly “Who are you?”


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July 2016

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