Because watching “Une vieille maitresse” sparkled my imagination again, here is another bit of the Masked Ball backstory.
Bianca stared at the stumpwork robe again, thoughtful. It was indeed a masterpiece, and she wondered once more what Lucia had seen in it (or anywhere else in the Museo, she had been edgy throughout all their visit) to upset her.
Kareem’s calm breathing and gentle comments helped her relax, and she decided it was time to go home. She’d still sleep at the Raji Embassy, but suddenly she missed her family she hadn’t seen in ten years.
Thus she headed for the Gigli palace where her father’s family shared different apartments: half belonged to her father, Claudio, the other half to his brother Francesco, who had two daughters – barely children when she had left, she wondered what they had become.
She herself had two younger brothers, Carlo, who had been fifteen when she had left, and Fabrizio, eleven. Both were now grown up, maybe already married, and Bianca was curious to see them again.
She hesitated in front of the doorknob shaped as a lion’s head, though. Maybe her parents were still mad at her and wouldn’t let her in. Maybe she wasn’t welcome anymore. After all, she had ran away at seventeen to avoid a pre-arranged life.
She squeezed Kareem’s hand and his smile gave her courage. She knocked, her heart beating faster.
Her anxiety proved to be groundless – her father was dead, her mother welcomed her with open arms, gushing over her gorgeous “husband” (she didn’t dare telling her there hadn’t been any wedding ceremony), and her two brothers, who were now handsome young men, seemed to have genuinely missed her.
Carlo was married to Isabel from Trevallyn and had a small son, Fabrizio was still looking for a bride and hoped to find someone at the masked ball.
“How did you find out about it?” he asked, excited to hear Bianca would be attending too.
“I have a new friend, Lucia Brabante, she invited me,” she answered.
Carlo and Fabrizio exchanged a glance.
“Why am I not surprised to hear you found another writer friend?” Carlo smiled. “We all look forward to see who will accompany her to the ball. Did she mention anyone to you?”
“She was quite vague about it,” Bianca admitted. “What about our cousins, will they be there?”
“Why don’t you go and ask them?” Fabrizio suggested. “I’m sure they missed you too…”