I am alone.
No one can hear my tears, my weeping. My mother is gone. My father...
Verona buried her face in her pillow, tears streaming down her face. My father...
She had found the letters, tucked away in her mother's vanity, the day of the funeral. The young woman set them aside on the canopy bed, a small packet wrapped in pink lace, so unlike her calm, austere mother that she tossed them aside without much thought. Probably something from a friend, she reasoned, and went on looking for the jewelry that she suspected the maids had already found.
There it was—the necklace, with its jewel of shimmering, endless aqua, which had graced her mother's neck every day of her life. Verona had often played with it as a small child; seated on her mother's lap, she would pull at it until Lady Elisabet gently took it out of her daughter's chubby fingers, smiling. "This is my teardrop," she would say, with a note of sadness in her voice that always made Verona look up into her mother's startling blue-green eyes, nearly the same color as the necklace. She used to think that it really was a teardrop, all the tears in the world falling from her mother's eyes, for she had never seen her mother cry.
The Lady Elisabet was gone now, dead of the fever that had struck Budapest without warning and carried off several members of the household only days before Verona's twenty-third birthday. Her suitor, too, was dead; the news had arrived yesterday. She did not feel too much remorse—Rolf, after all, had a reputation as a womanizer and a mean drunk—but with his death flew her last chance making a place for herself in society. Her father—she had never known him. Elisabet's eyes would fill with a mixture of fury and sadness whenever he was mentioned, the dashing young lord from London-town who had married her mother and then left her when the blond-and-blue-eyed couple's first child was born with raven hair and eyes.
Her mother had been faithful! Had the fool not known that his new bride's grandmother was Italian, of Sicilian descent? Did he not realize that resemblance skipped generations? No, he had assumed...and he had left them with nothing. Verona pounded her delicate hands into the pillow, releasing her rage at the father she had never even met. Damn him...
Now that Rolf was dead...
He was her one chance at being accepted again into society. At least in Budapest no one knew her whole story; her mother had told everyone that her husband had died in a hunting accident while in England. No one knew, or so she thought, until the day she learned that Rolf knew everything, but was willing to take her because of her great beauty. Wasn't that enough? To be bound for life to him? Now her mother was gone and even the least appealing way out was buried in the great churchyard at the edge of the city.
She fastened the "teardrop" around her neck and felt her own tears drying slowly. The letters...Verona picked them up and opened the first one.
I am dissolving our marriage. You have proved to be unfaithful and...The rest of the letter had been charred, then carefully put back together. Verona flung it aside. The other letters were in the same careful hand. She was putting them back in the drawer when one fell to the ground.
Verona picked it up, curious. It was in a different hand, more regal, and was addressed in a very formal style. She opened it carefully, noting with some surprise that the envelope was still sealed, though it looked to be many years old.
It is with deepest regret that I must inform you of the death of your cousin...
There was a sound in the hallway, and Verona looked up, setting the letter aside. On impulse she glanced back down at the signature: Gabriel Van Helsing. The name meant nothing to her. She set the letter back in the drawer as a maid entered her room, looking quite flustered.
"I'm sorry to disturb you, Lady, but you have a visitor."