Sea of light
This story takes place seven years after the transformation of Luciano. He and Arianna are both 23 years old and they have been married for four years.
Disclaimer: Everything you recognise from the books belongs to Mary Hoffman and I don't own Dora the Explorer either. Holly on the other hand is mine.
Arianna walked into her and Luciano's private chambers and stopped abruptly in the doorway. What was her husband doing this time?
Luciano sat at a table which was covered in small, brightly coloured lanterns and was busy making yet another one.
"What on earth are you doing?" she asked.
"Making lanterns," was the reply.
"I can see that! I meant, why are you making lanterns?"
"It's the sixth of July," he responded.
Arianna threw her hands in the air in a gesture of despair, but before she could question him any further Rodolfo, her father and the former regent of Belleza, walked in.
"What's going on here?" he asked, clearly meaning the new project of his son-in-law and former apprentice. When Luciano failed to respond he looked at his daughter for an explanation, but she just shrugged and made a face of incomprehension.
Arianna decided to give it another try and took a deep breath. Then she leaned down and said in a voice one would use to talk to a small child;
"For what reason do you make paper lanterns on the sixth of July, Luciano?"
"For a girl I once knew," Luciano answered, still not looking up from his work.
Arianna froze. She didn't know what kind of answer she had expected, but it certainly wasn't this. Deep inside her, she felt jealousy rear it's ugly head. She had always been jealous of any girl who came near Luciano, whether it was justified or not. The situation with Georgia had been bad enough and now Luciano was making paper lanterns for some stupid girl! Argh, sometimes she really hated him! How could he do this to her?
While these thought went through Arianna's head, Rodolfo inquired further. "Who may this girl be and why is she so important to you?" he asked, also looking slightly angry.
Luciano shrugged. "Just because."
Rodolfo frowned, he was not pleased with the answers he was getting nor did he like the fact that the man who married his daughter made things for another girl.
Arianna couldn't contain her anger and burst out.
"Stop it! You're married, remember? To ME!"
Luciano looked up for the first time and retorted in an annoyed tone: "I've been doing this for seven years now and you never even noticed before, let alone cared about it. So why does it bother you now?"
"Seven years?" Arianna screeched. She was really angry now and found herself clenching her hand into fists with frustration. She tried to calm herself down but with little success.
"Well, in that case, I hope you enjoy sleeping on the couch. You'll be doing it for a long time," she hissed at him.
Unable to say another civil word to her husband, she just turned on her heel and stormed out of the room. No way she was ever going to talk to him again, that jerk! The door of their, or more precisely now her, bedroom slammed shut.
Rodolfo simply stared at Luciano with a look of disapproval, waiting for the boy to explain or apologise. When neither occurred, he just looked disappointed and silently walked out of the room, back to his palazzo.
Luciano sighed and put his head on his hands, why did everything always had to be so complicated? He was upset at the fact that both his wife and his master had so little faith in him. This was nothing romantic nor had it anything to do with romance.
True, if he had put some more effort in explaining he wouldn't be in this mess, but he didn't want to talk about it and they should just have trusted him instead of immediately accusing him of all sorts of things.
Luciano turned back at the table and momentarily didn't know what to do. Finish what he was doing or go and try to talk to Arianna?
The sun would set in less than an hour and Luciano decided to finish his work. It was the last lantern that had to be done and he didn't have much time left. He wanted to be in the laguna with the lanterns before it was twilight.
Rodolfo was in his laboratory, discussing the situation with Silvia, his wife. Silvia was, as he had expected, also furious with Luciano and kept murmuring threats directed at the boy under her breath.
Rodolfo shook his head, surely Luciano must have realised how this would affect Arianna. He couldn't blame his daughter for throwing her husband out. Still, it was a really strange thing for Luciano to do. Luciano was devoted to his wife and Rodolfo knew how much he loved her. Why then do something like this? Maybe there was more to this then he knew off.
Looking in one of his many mirrors, he saw Luciano, his arms full with little lanterns, hurrying across the piazza towards the beach of the laguna.
Rodolfo got his coat and left the house to follow his apprentice.
He really needed to talk to Luciano about all this before he was murdered by his vengeful wife and mother-in-law.
When he arrived at the laguna he silently went to stand a few metres behind Luciano, who was busy lighting the small candles he had placed inside the lanterns. At first he thought Luciano hadn't noticed him, but somehow he knew Rodolfo was behind him without even having to turn his head.
"Are you just going to stand there glaring at me or are you going to help me light these and put them in the water?" Luciano asked.
Rodolfo sighed for the umpteenth time this evening and wordlessly picked up one of the lanterns to light the small candle inside it. They worked together in an amiable silence until Rodolfo couldn't resist making a comment.
"Luciano, you do realise that going for so much trouble for a girl that is not your wife is not an appropriate gesture to make, don't you?" Rodolfo asked.
"You just don't understand. It was nothing at all like that," Luciano answered in an irritable voice.
"Then tell me what it was like, because if you insist on not telling us, we will never understand," his master said. "Who is this girl?"
"Her name was Holly," Luciano said quietly.
He stayed quiet for a while and then, after taking a deep breath, finally started talking.
"Her name was Holly and she was seven years old when I met her.
She was in the room next to mine in the hospital. She had leukaemia, which is the same disease I had but in a different part of her body. The tumours were in her blood, while I had a brain tumour.
We first met in the community room of the hospital, you could go there is you wanted company and was well enough to go out of bed. Because I was under eighteen when I got sick I got located in the children's department in the hospital and there was at that time nobody of my own age. The first few weeks I didn't really speak to anyone, the others were just small children, we had nothing in common.
But then Holly came along and she sort of adopted me as older brother. She was an only child just like me and had always wished for an older sibling. She even started introducing me as such to people.
This confused most people, because we looked nothing alike. Me with my black curls and dark eyes and she with her blond locks and green eyes."
Luciano had been smiling affectionately, but now his smile disappeared. "Until our hair fell out that is," he added quietly.
He stared in the distance for some moments, his face grown sad and his thoughts far away. Then he went on.
"Whenever I was too sick to get out of bed, she would come sit next to me and watch Dora the Explorer in my room until I thought I would go crazy if I heard the words: "Swiper, no swiping" on more time," Luciano ruefully smiled to himself. "And whenever she was feeling very sick I would do the same for her."
Luciano paused and kneeled down in the sand next to the glowing lanterns and carefully set the first one in the water. The gentle waves quickly got hold of the little vessel and carried it away from the beach and unto the open waters of the laguna.
He let the second go with the same amount of care. Rodolfo waited patiently for him to go on. It seemed to be easier for him to talk while doing something with his hands, probably because it gave him something else to focus on and he didn't have to face Rodolfo directly. Luciano hated to show sorrow or distress and concealed it whenever he could. This made talking to him about sensitive subjects difficult and many a time Rodolfo hadn't even known something was wrong with him until it all came out at once.
Luciano held the third lantern a little longer in his hands, gently twirling it around. The ruby red of the paper was beautiful in the twilight air. After a while he put the lantern in the water and started speaking again.
"We went to the park together once, on a sort of field trip with the other children in the hospital. She was so excited. It was around the Chinese New Year and they were selling paper lanterns everywhere you looked. Holly was fascinated by them, so we decided to buy one. Then she got the brilliant idea to get it to float in the pond of the park. It was a complete fiasco." Luciano laughed softly.
"It sank the moment it touched the water, which is not so strange because it wasn't meant to float in the first place. Holly looked heartbroken, so I bought her another one. This time we made a small raft out of twigs and it actually worked. You should have seen the look on her face. I don't think I've ever seen someone so happy," Luciano smiled and added with a grin: "The swans on the other hand weren't so amused."
He had just released the last of the lanterns into the laguna and stood up to look at them. In the background the sun was setting and Rodolfo had to admit it was a wonderful sight. All of them brightly coloured, they shone beautifully in the greyish light.
Luciano followed them with his eyes the entire time and seemed reluctant to go on. Rodolfo was uncertain whether or not to lay an arm across his shoulders. The grief and pain he saw on Luciano's face suggested that the sorrow he felt was very personal and not something he wanted others to know off or help him with. Rodolfo decided to just let him be for the moment, Luciano would go on when he was ready.
Eventually Luciano took a deep breath and started talking as abruptly as if he had never stopped.
"Then her condition started to get worse. She couldn't come out of bed for very long periods of time. I spent days sitting next to her bed, but most of the time she was not even well enough to talk to me. She didn't even have the energy to watch Dora and that required no greater effort than just keeping her eyes open, but still it was too much." Luciano took another hitched breath and the next words came out in a rush.
"She died on the sixth of July. She had turned eight just a few weeks before."
Luciano's face was stony while he told this, but Rodolfo could sense how deep this affected him.
"So I light lanterns on the sixth of July every year in remembrance of Holly. Fifteen in total, because this year she should have been fifteen years old in my world."
Luciano turned his face away from his master to hide his expression, but his laboured breath told Rodolfo enough.
"You never told me about her," Rodolfo eventually said softly.
Luciano gave a small sad smile. "I've never really told anyone about her. I don' think even my parents knew how much she meant to me."
Rodolfo didn't know what to say, so he simply laid his arm across his apprentice's shoulders in an attempt to comfort him. Luciano leaned softly against his shoulder for warmth, but after only a few seconds pulled away again. This was something he had to deal with on his own. Rodolfo gave his shoulder a final squeeze and turned to leave.
"Rodolfo," Luciano asked, hesitating slightly, "would you please talk to Arianna for me? I, I don't know if I can do this again."
"Of course, don't worry about it," Rodolfo reassured him.
Back in the ducal palazzo just finished telling both Arianna and Silvia what had happened. Arianna had her hands in front of her mouth and there were tears in her eyes.
"I had no idea, I have to go make up to him," she said, obviously upset at the distress of her husband.
Rodolfo gently shook his head. "No, I think it's best if you'll let him mourn in solitude. I don't think he wants to be comforted right now."
The three of them turned to the mirror that was showing the beach of the laguna.
There in the last sunrays of the day stood a tall slim figure with in front of him a sea of coloured lights, softly floating in the waves and carrying the light to the farthest coasts imaginable.
English is not my first language and I want to improve, so if you spot bad grammar or misspellings please let me know. All other feedback is also hugely appreciated and very welcome.