Annabella put the fingers of her left hand to her lips and stared across the balcony of her father's house. Her golden hair caught the sun's rays that brightened her hair to light corn. Her
brother Giovanni was stretched out lengthwise staring up at her face.
"I’ve spoken in confidence to Father Bonaventura," Giovanni said.
"About what?” Annabella asked, not turning her head.
"About us," Giovanni muttered softly, watching his sister's lips.
"Us?” Annabella repeated, turning her head and gazing at her brother. "You spoke to him about us?” Her eyes narrowed. Her face coloured. "What did he say? Did he damn us to Hell?”
"Told me to pray and avoid you at all costs." Giovanni said.
"Giovanni, what made you speak with him about us?”
"I had to speak to someone. He at least is bound to secrecy by the confessional." Giovanni brushed his hand through his dark-hair and then brushed his moustache with his fingers, all the time staring at his sister, watching her face, her eyes.
"Father has invited Soranzo here today to bring matters of our marriage to some final conclusion. What can I do, Giovanni, to avoid this marriage?” Annabella said, sadly, her voice unsteady.
"Say you don't love him and refuse to marry him,"Giovanni said.
"And be cut off from Father and homeless?” Annabella responded.
"Are the feelings of our heart always to be guided by the wisdom of our mind?” Giovanni muttered, placing his right hand on his sister's thigh. Annabella patted the hand with her own gently.
"Putana, I think, suspects something," Annabella stated softly.
"Suspects what?” Giovanni asked, his voice betraying anxiousness.
"That you and I are more than just brother and sister."
"How do you know?” Giovanni asked raising his head and staring hard at his sister. Her hand moved the roses and pushed them from her lap.
"Because of what she says." Annabella turned away and knelt on the seat, her eyes gazing over the sea beyond them, at a ship passing.
"What does she say?” Giovanni asked, gazing at his sister's neck.
"That our closeness could make the tongues of others wag."
"Tongues wag, anyway, Annabella." Giovanni paused. He placed his hand on his sister's shoulder. "We must be honest to each other. If we can't be honest with each other, where can our honesty be?”
"Putana will say nothing. She's a servant." Annabella laid her chin on her hands and stared out at the blue sea. "But, I still must marry Soranzo. There is no escaping that fact."
"What about us, Annabella?” Giovanni asked, softly.
"I’d rather be with you than any other, but I've no choice."
"What must I do when you are with Soranzo?”
"You must marry and forget me," Annabella said, sadly, moving her hands to her face. Giovanni sighed deeply. He moved close to Annabella and kissed her cheek.
"I’d rather die than, that," Giovanni muttered.
"No,” Annabella said,” promise me you'll not be so rash. You can't be so dependent on me. You must find another." Giovanni gazed at his sister with his dark eyes. He shook his head slowly.
"There is no other. How can there be another? "
"You must, Giovanni,” Annabella stated firmly. Giovanni sighed again. He moved closer to his sister and placed his arm about her waist.
"There is no must where love is concerned. Only the must of being with the object that one loves."
"But what about Soranzo? What about Father? Am I to be cast out? Father will disown me," Annabella said.
"If he knew about us, he'd killed us," Giovanni said gently. The two stared out at the sea in silence. He feeling an emptiness within, she sensing herself being torn apart. He feeling his sister's warmth in her hand in his. She sensing her brother's closeness and wanting it
more, feeling torn even more. "We are damned which ever way we chose to go," Giovanni uttered softly. Annabella turned and kissed her brother's lips to stop them speaking; to stop the words flowing;to cease his sounds stabbing at her.
"Where is my daughter?” Annabella's father, Florio, asked Putana.
"She was on the balcony earlier," Putana replied.
"Well, tell her Soranzo wants to meet her and have a talk."
"Yes, Sir, I will fetch her," Putana said meekly. Florio moved away and walked off with Soranzo. Once they were out of sight, she walked quickly along the passageway to Annabella's room. She was about to knock when sounds from within made her pause. Her hand froze in mid air.She laid her head against the door and listened. Moving back she
stared at the door. Her hand slowly knocked on the wooden panel.
"Miss Annabella, your father asks for you," she stated stiffly. No reply came. She knocked again. "Miss Annabella, your father wants you," she repeated, louder. The voices in the room became silent. Putana moved away from the door further. She lowered her eyes when
the door opened, and Annabella stood with a thin white gown about her nakedness.
"Does he know where I am?” Annabella asked softly.
"No, he thinks you're on the balcony." Putana replied, softer.
"Is Soranzo with him?” Annabella asked nervously.
"Yes. Both are seeking you." Putana replied gazing at her mistress.
"Must I marry, Putana?” Annabella pleaded. Putana shrugged her shoulders. Her eyes moved slowly over her mistress's face. She let her hands remain by her side, in case they were to clutch her mistress's hands. Behind her mistress, Giovanni appeared. He too was scantly clothed. His dark eyes met her own and she sensed a passion move there, darkly, deeply, like an ocean stirred by storms.
Annabella knelt on the balcony seat and stared out at the sea. The blueness calmed her momentarily.The sun comforted her like a lover.
"Here you are, Annabella," Florio stated gruffly,”Soranzo and I have been looking for you everywhere. Where have you been hiding?”
"I was just musing here where it is quiet," Annabella said, letting her eyes move from her father to Soranzo with his pale features and cold eyes.
"Didn’t Putana find you?” Florio asked. "Women, Soranzo, are never there when you want them and always there when you don't."
Soranzo said nothing, but stared at Annabella as if she were a strange object placed before him for evaluation.
"Now you have found me," Annabella said sitting down on the seat.
"Yes, well, Soranzo wants to talk to you and discuss your marriage plans, I, however must be away; business meeting in a few minutes."And with that Florio turned and departed muttering to himself as he did so, his thoughts already elsewhere than on his daughter.
"At last, we are alone," Soranzo stated, sitting beside Annabella. "Your father says he has most plans in hand, but the small details he has left for us." Annabella stared at the ground before her. She felt nothing for Soranzo and even his being there beside her made her feel trapped.Soranzo, however, knew nothing of this,and talked and talked about their wedding, gesturing with his hands and not worrying about her scant replies. He presumed her quietness was meekness, and so took upon himself the little details and took her occasional nodding head as an affirmation of the plans he had outlined; with a faint smile he paused and gazed at her in silence.
"I feel trapped," Annabella uttered to Giovanni as they stood on the balcony some minutes after Soranzo had departed. "I feel like a caged bird."
"Doesn’t he know how you feel?” Giovanni asked.
"He’s a complete numbskull. He cares nothing for what I feel."
"Didn’t you tell him?”
"How could I?” Annabella said, turning to look at Giovanni. She took his anxious expression in to her heart. "He assumes all is well because Father says such is the case." Annabella moved to the edge of the balcony and stared out at the sea. She sensed Giovanni move up close beside her." I thought I could go ahead with the plans of marriage, but I can't. It is beyond me, but I must."
"I’d rather die than be denied your love and company," Giovanni stated firmly, yet softly.
"You mustn't talk like that." She turned and gazed at her brother. "Never say such things."
"How can I live or want to live if you are to marry that fool and Ibe deprived of your love?”
"Giovanni, you will never be deprived of my love."
"How can it be otherwise, if you and he are married and he shares your bed?” Giovanni uttered passionately.
Annabella grabbed her brother's hands in hers and held them to her cheeks."I’d rather bed a pig than him," Annabella said angrily. "But I am trapped. How can it be otherwise, Giovanni?” He stared into his
sister's eyes. He loved the pale blueness of them, the warmth there.
"Remember that first time we loved?”
"Yes." Annabella lowered her eyes.
"How did you feel?”
"I felt undone and yet so alive, so happy."
"And now?” Giovanni uttered softly. He felt her hands squeeze his.His heart pumped hard. "What do you feel now?" he repeated.
"You know how I feel. But what I must do and how I feel are two different things.I must marry Soranzo."Annabella released her brother's hands and moved away from him.
"No,” Giovanni said passionately,” you can't marry him. It would be a lie. The man deserves better and so do you."
"You don't understand, Giovanni, I must marry him."
"Why, must, Annabella?” Giovanni asked, his face darkened.
"Because I'm pregnant." The words fell heavy from her lips.
"Are you sure?" he asked in a deep whisper.
"Yes. It is certain. Putana knows." Annabella moved hurriedly from the balcony and left Giovanni staring after her bewildered. He sat down and stared at the door where his sister had fled. His head felt heavy. Thoughts crowded his mind and soon he closed his eyes and lay
back against the wall behind him. Too much, he mused, too much.
Putana stared at her mistress as she lay on her bed. She knew the dilemma the young girl was in, but knew no way out of the problem. If she marries Soranzo, she mused, he may be duped, but what if he doesn't marry her, what then? she mused deeper.
"Putana, I'm lost." Annabella sat up on the bed and stared at her servant. "I’m cursed. There is no way out other than to marry."
"What if the child were lost?” Putana said distantly.
"Murder the child for the sake of my sins?” Annabella said.
"It could be arranged, Miss Annabella, it could be done."
"Never, Putana, never that." Annabella sat on the edge of her bed.
"Some do," Putana stated, world-wisely.
"Not me," Annabella replied. "I couldn't."
"Not all carry their brother's child," Putana spat out.
"Get out! Get out!" Annabella shouted jumping from the bed and chasing the servant from her room. She stood by the door and wept.All things seem to be falling apart, she mused sadly, closing her eyes, brushing tears from her cheek, all falling apart, she muttered. A knock on her door disturbed her. "Who is it?”
"Giovanni," her brother's voice vibrated beyond the wooden panel.
"What do you want?” Annabella asked wearily.
"Let me in, it's urgent," Giovanni pleaded. Annabella opened the door and Giovanni entered. "Putana is speaking with Soranzo," he said. Annabella put her hands over her mouth and a dark wound opened.Giovanni stared down at his sister's body on the bed. She lay inert with a bloodied wound in her breast. Her eyes gazed lifeless up at
the white ceiling. Giovanni knelt down and laid his head on her thigh. "I’ll be with you soon," he whispered. Looking at his sister's heart in his bloodied hand, he held it against his chest. "Be with you soon," he repeated in a low whisper to the heart,"quite soon."
Soranzo shook his head in disbelief. Putana stood back holding her hands together as if in prayer.
"Are you sure of this?” Soranzo asked indignantly, grabbing Putana's arm. "It’s such madness," he said.
Putana nodded her head."What I have told you is the truth," she cried.
"Does Florio know?”
"No," Putana said, lowering her eyes.
"He must be told," Soranzo stated firmly. Florio arrived at the top of the stairs. He stared at Putana weeping and Soranzo thumping his fist into the palm of his hand.
"What’s all the commotion?” Florio asked firmly. Soranzo repeated what Putana had told him concerning Annabella. Florio staggered backwards. He glared at the servant and grabbed her arm.
"Take me to her!" he bellowed, "show me where she is now."
Putana released by Florio raced ahead of them along the passageway to her mistress's room where she stood and knocked. There was no reply. She knocked again. Silence. Putana slowly opened the door and she and the two men entered the silent room.
Putana stood speechless and stared at the bed. Annabella lay motionless and bloodied. Then a movement behind curtains made Putana turn her head. It was Giovanni. Soranzo and Florio stood back in shock. In his left hand he held a bloodied heart and in his right a dagger.
"You want her heart, Soranzo?” Giovanni asked loudly. "You want to hold it?”
"You’re mad, Giovanni," Soranzo said weakly. Florio was speechless, he just stood and stared at his son.
"Want to feel the weight of the heart? It's priceless. Worth more than its weight in gold," Giovanni mumbled.
"Why?” Florio asked finally. "What have you done?” Giovanni did not answer his father. He held the heart to his lips and kissed it.
Putana screamed and fled the room. Soranzo held his hands to his mouth as if he were about to vomit. "I love her," Giovanni said in a low whisper. "And she loves me. We are one. No one can ever separate us."
"Giovanni, put down the dagger," Florio said softly. He held out his hand towards Giovanni, but his son moved back. Soranzo gazed in disbelief at the heart in Giovanni's hand. He seemed mesmerized by it. As if it had spoken to him. Florio moved forward towards his son.Then in a blur of movement Giovanni stabbed his own breast with force. Florio moved forward just in time to support his son from hitting the floor. The heart in his son's hand fell way from them and hit the floor with a dull thud. Florio and Soranzo both stared at the heart as if it's very inertia would explain the reason for them being there in such an absurd abattoir.
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