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Chapter 1 - The Marriage with the Sea

Light streamed on to the Duchessa?s satin bedcovers as her serving-woman flung open the shutters.

            ?It?s a beautiful day, Your Grace,? said the young woman, adjusting her mask of green sequins.

            ?It?s always a beautiful day on the lagoon,? said the Duchessa, sitting up and letting the maid put a wrapper round her shoulders and hand her a cup of hot chocolate. She was wearing her night-mask of black silk. She looked closely at the young woman. ?You?re new, aren?t you??

            ?Yes, your Grace,? she curtsied. ?And if I may say so, what an honour it is to be serving you on such a great day!?

            She?ll be clapping her hands next, thought the Duchessa, sipping the dark chocolate.

The maid clasped her hands ecstatically. ?Oh your Grace, you must so be looking forward to the Marriage!?

            ?Oh, yes,? said the Duchessa wearily. ?I look forward to it just the same every year.?

*****

The boat rocked precariously as Arianna stepped in, clutching her large canvas bag.

            ?Careful!? grumbled Tommaso, who was handing his sister into the boat. ?You?ll capsize us. Why do you need so much stuff??

            ?Girls need a lot of things,? Arianna answered firmly, knowing that Tommaso thought everything female a great mystery.

            ?Even for one day?? asked Angelo, her other brother.

            ?Today?s going to be a long one,? Arianna said even more firmly and that was the end of it.

            She settled in one end of the boat gripping her bag on her knees, while her brothers started rowing with the slow sure strokes of fishermen who spent their lives on the water. They had come from their own island, Merlino, to collect her from Torrone and take her to the biggest lagoon festival of the year. Arianna had been awake since dawn.

            Like all lagooners, she had been going to the Marriage with the Sea since she was a small child, but this year she had a special reason for being excited. She had a plan. And the things she had in her heavy bag were part of it. 

I?m so sorry about your hair,? said Lucien?s mother, biting her lip as she restrained herself from her usual comfort gesture of running her hand across his curly head. The curls weren?t there any more and she didn?t know how to comfort him, or herself.

            ?It?s all right, Mum,? said Lucien. ?I?ll be in fashion. Lots of boys at school even shave theirs off.?