In Bellezza people were getting their senses back. The guards swarmed forward in a belated attempt to protect the duchessa and her family. LJ, Vicaela and Silvia ran to their mother to support her and Rodolfo was already by her side. Arianna stood a few paces away from Falco and simply stared at him with cold eyes. There was to be no mercy from her.
Luciano and Georgia were both kneeling next to Falco's body. Neither of them had a lot of medical experience, but both were aware of the fact that it couldn't take much longer. Falco was going to die and nothing would be able to save him.
Georgia was obviously in shock, rocking softly back and forward on her feet and moaning constantly. Her eyes were glazed over as if she didn't realised were she was and her arms were clutched tightly around her body.
Luciano on the other hand was much more collected, having seen equally shocking things in the short time he had spent in Talia and knew there was nothing more to be done. He had done all he could. His shirt was torn on the bottom and his hand was still folded around Falco's hand in which he had pressed the piece of fabric. He just hoped it had done its job.
Arianna tore her eyes away from the body on the floor and focused them instead on Luciano.
He was solid, strong and with clear features, unlike the ones in her fantasies whose faces had slowly blurred as the years passed by. The horror she had felt when she had realised she could no longer recall his face was indescribable. Her father had insured her that this was a normal thing and nothing to be ashamed off, but it hurt none the less.
Arianna shook her heads to clear it from these thoughts. All in the past now, she could look at her husbands face for as long as she liked. It was hers once more.
She looked around to find all the members of her family, not fully happy unless she could see with her own eyes they were all doing well.
Luciano had moved from his place next to Falco and was standing next to LJ, who was looking at Falco with a shocked expression.
Now that the two were standing shoulder to shoulder she could finally begin seeing the differences between them. Luciano and LJ, no matter how much alike, were far from identical. For years the face of her only son had haunted her and mocked her in her failure to keep her husband. It wasn't his fault, she knew that, and had tried to treat him in the same way as his sisters. Yet Arianna knew she had never fully accomplished it and still felt stabs of guilt when she looked at him. She hoped that by focusing on their differences she could now finally look at her son without seeing her husband. She owned LJ this, because for years he had lived in the knowledge that even just looking at him had hurt her. It was unfair and had caused him a lot of pain; maybe now was the time to right that error.
Apart from the difference in age, they had slightly different features and other subtle differences. It was no denying that LJ was Luciano's son, a blind man could see that, but LJ was in no way a copy of his father.
LJ's face was somewhat more defined with more sharp angles than Luciano's and were Luciano's high forehead and wide eyes had always given him a slightly naïve appearance, LJ most of the time looked serious, even when he didn't mean to. Somehow his eyes were a fraction smaller in comparison with his face and his eyebrows a bit heavier. Now that she stopped to think of it she realised that it reminded her more of Rodolfo than Luciano.
But the major difference was in the eyes. LJ's eyes were a rich chocolate brown, very dark but clearly not black. They were warm, honest and patient. Familiar and just as easy to read as when he was five years old. LJ could never keep his feelings a secret and was often teased for it by his sisters. No matter how intelligent or serious, the boy would never be cunning. He couldn't tell a lie to save his life and Arianna was happy about it. She herself had always been more straight forward than her mother had been and appreciated it in others.
Luciano's eyes on the other hand were darker, almost truly black, and were fathomless deep. Arianna loved the way she could become lost in his eyes and to look for the secrets they contained, though she never truly found them. Luciano, contrary to his fresh innocent face, was cunning, but no less warm for it. It was just that when he wanted to be, he was unreadable and often she could only guess at his feelings. This was one of the things that had made their relationship so difficult in the beginning, neither of them opening up to the other.
Her gaze shifted to the place were her daughters were standing, with their arms around each other for comfort. For all their intelligence and grown up attitudes, her children were just that; children.
She was woken from her thoughts by a hand on her shoulder. She partly turned to look at Rodolfo, who somehow managed to look both sad and happy at the same time, and knew what he was trying to say to her.
The church was still in chaos and the only person who could calm it was she. Now was not the time for happy reunions, she had a job to do.
She thanked the Goddess that there had been no other Di Chimici's present at the wedding, otherwise hell would have broken loose. It had been the only thing she had insisted on, because she refused to look vulnerable in front of Fabrizio, Filippo or Rinaldo di Chimici. The whole thing had been bad enough without having to look at their smug faces. Gaetano and Francesca, the only ones she cared for, had been too ashamed of the behaviour of their family to come. Their absence was a silent form of protest and even of it didn't help much, she appreciated the gesture.
Now she turned to face the crowd and began to give the guards commands.
Slowly but surely the church subdued and the crowd started to realise there was no immediate danger. Their duchessa gave orders in a crisp determined voice which were automatically obeyed. The guards moved to get the citizens out of the church in an organised fashion and order was finally restored. The message was spread that the duchessa would make an official announcement on what had happened the next morning and she asked the citizens of Bellezza to stay calm and go back to their houses.
Inside the church only Arianna, Luciano, their children, Rodolfo, Silvia, Georgia and Falco's corpse remained.
Arianna and Luciano only had eyes for each other and Georgia was still on the ground next to Falco.
Rodolfo looked around to the place were his grandchildren were standing; the three of them huddled together. Vicaela and Silvia were still hugging one another and LJ hovered behind them, looking unsure of what to do.
Rodolfo gestured to his wife to get them outside; they were too young to witness such things. He had never been able to protect Arianna or Luciano from such things when they were that age, he'd be damned if he let the same thing happen to his grandchildren.
While the children were shepherded to the state mandola, Rodolfo focused his attention to the spot were Georgia was still moaning under her breath.
He placed a hand on her shoulder, which went ignored or unnoticed, and gently started pulling her away from Falco.
At first she resisted, but then quickly gave in and let herself be placed on one of the hard wooden benches. He shook off his coat and placed it over her shoulder to keep her warm and then took a small step back. Preferably he would have found her a place to lie down and would have forced her to drink something sweet or alcoholic or, even better, both, but at the moment he neither had the resources nor the time for that.
For now it would do.
Reluctantly he turned to the last (at least for now) issue that needed to be resolved; the corpse lying a few feet away from the altar.
He knelt next to it and felt for a pulse.
It turned out to be as he had expected it to be; non-existent.
He sighed and looked at the fist with the piece of clothing clamped into it. Rodolfo had realised as soon as he saw Luciano do it, what the boy (for Luciano would always be referred to as "the boy" in his thoughts) meant to do.
Even though there was no love lost between Rodolfo and Falco, he still hoped it had worked. Because if it had, then that would mean… No he didn't dare hope yet. First he needed to be sure.
His hand gripped the silver ring that hung on a necklace around his neck and with a few last instructions to the guards outside made his way to his palazzo.
Arianna wasn't the only one who had a job to do.
I promise to update the next chapter as soon as possible, but it may take a few weeks for I still have to write the mayor part of it. But I do know were the plot is going now, so that should speed things up.
Please review and if you have ideas or suggestions for the story, please let me now. All contrabutions are welcome ;)