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Crossing the River
“Please rise and join me in a toast to the soon to be newlyweds,” the poised Italian mother stood up and motioned towards her daughter. The guests joined her and smiled towards the head of the table, where a withdrawn and coy couple joined the toast. The bride-to-be, Caprice Bettini tried to return the beaming grins with equal contentment. Smile and look happy on the outside, she thought. She curved her head from side to side to acknowledge her guests while accidently whacking her sea-green eyes with her fire-gold locks. By her side, the Baron Ugo Musso pompously gaped at everyone in the eye while trying to keep his wig from slipping. She used every ounce of self-control to not snigger.
Everyone ultimately sat down again to return to eating their food but Caprice kept sneaking glances around the hall, seeking out one guest. Her eyes traveled all over, witnessing fancy wigs and multi-colored silk dresses. Through candlelight and jewels, she managed to lay eyes on her target. Finally, she thought.
Dinner was followed by a little chatting and socializing which was right before dancing. Caprice moved from one guest to another, thanking all the “You’re extremely lucky to have him” and “Congratulations. You’re a fine pair.” Making her way through the throngs of relatives and acquaintances, she managed to pass by her fiancée. The Baron was conversing with Lady Belinda Novarese, a new friend to him and a new foe to Caprice. Caprice gave a nod to Belinda whose rejoinder was to stiffen her neck. The Baron took no note and excused himself to talk to his betrothed. “You seem anxious,” he mentioned, mustering concern. “I have a lot on my mind,” she merely replied. He may be simple minded but he’s good in intentions, she thought. Maybe this betrothal could work…. The idea was starting to become possible to her when she saw the one guest again. She followed her target.
The dance was due to begin any moment. Caprice gracefully rushed past innumerable guests. “Pardon me,” she muttered as she made way to her mark, a young man of about 21 years who had a crown of copper hair that was tied back with a cream ribbon. The man, Rocco Mancini sipped his wine, vigilant to not leak a drop on his slow-growing whiskers. His eyes gave the impression of being little puffy, conceivably from a lack of slumber but he could detect the eighteen year old Caprice out from the corner of his eye. He turned around and asked, “Have you made up your mind?”
He set down his drink. “I’m leaving tonight for the colonies. The decision must be made tonight.”
She heaved a sigh profoundly and said, “There’s much to mull over.”
“A child can only wait for so long,” he spoke maliciously, peering at Caprice’s swelling belly.
She bit her lip while feeling brimming tears.
“I’m sorry,” Rocco apologized, remorseful. Her nod signified her forgiveness.
The dance was lively. Caprice took pleasure in the steps but felt mentally unstable. Her thoughts steamed up her concentration. She had two selections: run away with her future child’s father to another place where she could start over her life to or stay in Italy like the good girl she was (or was supposed to be) and pass the child off the Baron’s. Keeping her head elevated, she noticed Lady Belinda glaring at her. I could leave and our grudge would be forgotten, Caprice considered, remembering the look of betrayal on Belinda’s face when she told her of the betrothal. But would that make me a coward? Her glimpse travelled to the eyes of her mother. Her mother was counting on her. Mrs. Bettini knew a marriage could save the family name after her husband’s embarrassing debts and it was due to her that Caprice was engaged. It’s not fair to leave them with little money, the statement ran through Caprice’s mind. But then again was it fair for her to leave me alone for my childhood and then expect me to do her favors of marrying clumsy barons for something as selfish as money? Caprice, being a devout Christian, normally would have prayed to God to pardon her but she refrained this time.
Rocco strolled on the steps of the Bettini manor, appreciative for the reality that there were no foot guards to peer at him with suspicion. He lingered as unwearyingly as he could. After 45 minutes unaccompanied, he started walking in the direction of his carriage. An opening of a door and pitter-patter of lady’s shoes on stone turned his head around. Caprice raced to the stunned gentlemen and embraced him. He smiled. “You are coming?” he inquired somewhat hectic.
She grinned genuinely for the first time in 3 months and replied “Yes.”
He lifted her into the carriage with shining eyes. He took a final look at the gothic mansion. “Will you miss Italy?”
She nodded. “Of course but I know this is right.”
He climbed in and commanded the driver to go. “And the Lady Belinda? What shall become of her?”
“She can have the Baron as her husband as she always wanted.”
Caprice laid her head on Rocco’s shoulder, his hand stroking her now loose curls. They exchanged no words for several miles until Caprice started laughing. Amused, Rocco questioned on what was so humorous.
“I’ve never made a choice for myself before,” she chuckled, “This is my first time and I never felt so….”
He supplied the words she struggled to locate. “Alive. You feel alive.”