By Sonia Prevedello
Venice. A warm spring morning of 1797. As the start of a new day was slowly making its entrance, the golden rays invaded the room through the open windows. The white curtains were dancing to the rhythm of a delicate breeze, whilst the silver-coloured walls were glowing with light. The floor reflected the chamber’s whole lustrousness and, gleaming before the morning’s sunlight, looked like a fine Victorian mirror. There was a passionate feeling behind everything that day: the sunlight had a peculiar way of dominating the crystalline sky, the birds a remarkable style of conveying their merry tunes.
The atmosphere seemed to echo Isabelle’s mood. Today, like rarely before, her gaiety was overwhelming, to the point that her delicate features had been enhanced. Her eyes were burning an intense green colour under thick black lashes. Her lips were vivid scarlet, her cheeks, a charming rosy shade.
All that Isabelle touched that day seemed to flourish with life. However, her fantasies were promptly interrupted by the clicking sound of Mrs. Dalton’s high heels. It was Friday and this meant that it was time for Isabelle to read to the lady. Indeed, this was one of the several duties which she had been assigned to by Mrs. Dalton, a matron who had decided to take Isabelle under her wing, ever since the night when the parentless Isabelle had fainted before her eyes.
Isabelle loved her but she presently perceived her as an obstacle, trying to pinion her wings. Isabelle was seventeen at the time and, like any other girl her age, she desired to make the most of life in Venice. She deeply desired to walk its picturesque streets and cross its scenic bridges, feeling the breeze caressing her hair and the water dancing beneath her feet. Furthermore, a part of her was shouting for the freedom to experience the fervent passions, intrigues and mysteries which, at the moment, she could solely taste through romantic novels.
Mrs. Dalton could not be kept waiting. Hence, Isabelle carefully straightened the ends of her emerald coloured dress and fastened its ribbons in a neat bow. She scurried out of her bedroom and entered the dark corridor. Suddenly her heart started thumping uncontrollably. She didn’t know what her vibrant emotions could signify, yet she felt as if something singular was about to happen. Could this be a forewarning of an event?
Having reached the library, her meeting place with Mrs. Dalton, Isabelle knocked at the door and slowly opened it......
Close to Mrs. Dalton stood a handsome and imposing man. He was tall with wide shoulders. His dark chestnut hair descended upon his shoulders. Isabelle was speechless. She felt as if her heart was galloping inside her chest. As soon as Isabelle’s eyes caught his, he smiled, showing his white teeth beneath a slight beard. His eyes wore an intense and alluring expression, which she had seldom noticed in any other man.
Hoping to veil her emotions, Isabelle assumed an upright position and waited for Ms. Dalton’s directions.
“I’ll see you in the garden, get the book and wait for me there,” uttered Mrs. Dalton sternly.
Isabelle picked up the novel and left the room. Once she was safe from Mrs. Dalton’s sight, she instinctively ran out, as if to flee from a reality which she was too afraid to face.
As soon as Isabelle reached the river, at the far end of the garden, she halted, and let herself fall backwards upon the humid grass. She felt bewildered.....confused....astonished. Who could that man be? What was he doing there? She paused for a moment and, as common sense came back to her, she reasoned that this was no business of hers.....a count was no man for a maid. In the attempt to get her mind off that mysterious man, whose name she still did not know, she opened her book and read:
It was a love affair that nobody approved of. Yet she would never give it up, not if she had the chance. She loved him more than anything in the world and this was more important to her than any disapproving look or defamatory remark......
The tranquility of the whole scene was suddenly interrupted by the crunching sound of dried twigs beneath a foot.
“Ms. Dalton? Is..is it you?” Isabelle inquired with a quivering voice.
“I’m afraid it’s not...she found that she was too busy for your reading session today.”
She turned instantaneously to face the remarkable man which she had seen in the library.
“What are you doing here?”
“Oh, my dear lady. I felt that it would have been rude of me not to inform you of the circumstances.”
He sat down beside her under the cooling shade of the oak tree.
“I would love to spend a few minutes with a charming young lady like yourself“ he said with exuberance.
Well, you must know that I am not accustomed to accept the company of strangers.”
“How discourteous of me! Let me introduce myself, my name is Robert Williams. Very pleased to meet you! May I ask you for your name?”
“Oh, Belle indeed!” he replied zealously.
Isabelle blushed as she felt her heart burning with a fervent feeling, which she had never experienced before.
“Listen,” Isabelle murmured. “Can you hear it? The sounds of birds chirping and the river rushing down the stream. It’s magical down here!”
A short interval followed, causing Isabelle’s eyes to fail to obey reason and to instinctively turn to seek the handsome figure.
“Follow me!” Robert suddenly said. “Follow me,” he repeated with the determination of a soldier, and took Isabelle by the hand.
“Where are we going?” Isabelle enquired enthusiastically.
“Do you trust me? Then follow me!”
At this, she rose and started running with him. She felt beautiful, radiant and full of life. This apparently fragile bird, which Mrs. Dalton had bolted in its cage, was finally free to cross Venice’s narrow streets with Robert. Without ever letting hold of each other’s hand, they both stopped upon what he had defined “The Bridge of Sighs”.
With a swift movement Robert placed his strong hands on Isabelle’s back and brought her nearer to him. He looked at her with his typically vivid and ardent expression, causing Isabelle to loose all her rationality. Then, he started kissing her gently. His beard was tickling her mouth, thus provoking a feeling of pleasure to flow through Isabelle’s entire body...
Ultimately, Robert bent her backwards and whispered:
“Legend has it that if two lovers kiss on this bridge then their love will last in eternity...”
Hence, Isabelle brought her arms round his neck and kissed him again. This time, her kiss was full of ardour, aspiration, trust: the feelings of a young girl who, opening her heart for the first time, hoped to have found her true love...