A tale of artists, intrigue, and the magical renaissance

5.4 – Addio {Goodbye}

“I feel like I should feel worse about leaving my bedroom than I do,” Elena said dully, staring around the empty room.

“I think you’ve been feeling bad about enough,” Niccolo said quietly from beside her. “If this isn’t making you sad, just go with it.”

“It’ll hit her later,” Ele said glumly, “I think she’s still a little shell-shocked.”

It certainly felt as if she was in shock. It wasn’t as bad as the first few days after Slug had paralyzed her and threatened her with torture, but Elena couldn’t help but feel as if none of it were real. The hallway slipped by and passed without her paying attention, as if in a dream, and they were in the courtyard before she had even realized it.

“Hold on,” she said, stopping. “Too fast.”

“Are you okay?” Niccolo turned to give her a look of concern.

“I’m okay, I just…let me hold on here for a second.” Even with the dreamlike quality, Elena knew she would want to preserve this moment. She turned in a slow circle, taking in the courtyard around her. The fountain splashed lazily, and a chilled breeze made the bare tree branches rustle against each other. Her breath hung in the air in a frozen mist, and the courtyard was so silent that the very air itself felt chilled. The white marble of the tile glittered with the first frost of the year, and Elena shivered.

It was beautiful, a work of utter art, yet it was beautiful in such a cold, unfeeling way that it made Elena shiver just to look at it.

It’s like the studio, she thought forlornly, pretty and perfect, but not for me.

“Leetel garzona?” Cook broke the silence from the doorway to the kitchens, and Elena shook herself.

“I…I don’t think I am that anymore,” she said. “A garzona, I mean. I think I’m just ‘Elena’ now.”

“Bah,” Cook said, waving one hand dismissively as he approached, “other studios they snatch you up in beating of heart. Not worth to change name now.” He held out a clean piece of linen wrapped around something that steamed and smelled of yeast and herbs and sausages. “So used to cooking for so many garzoni, accidentally I make too much of the supper. You take, else will go to waste.”

“Thank you,” Elena took the little bundle, still warm from the oven, cradling it to her chest. In the blurry world that seemed like a dream, somehow that little bundle of warmth meant more to her than all the beauty of the courtyard. De Luca’s studio had felt like her home, and having it ripped away from her stung, but in this moment the little lump of bread and sausages felt more like hers than anything else in the world.

Her Storm buzzed in her temples and fingertips, the reminder of her failure an insult added to the injury of having to leave the Studio. The bread was made with oregano, tarragon and rosemary, little bits of sausage baked inside and garlicky butter melted across the top. For it to be this warm, it would’ve had to be baked less than an hour ago, fresh from the oven. Stepping forward and carefully holding the bread away at a safe angle, she pressed the large man into a hug. He squeezed her back, tightly, then stepped away and cleared his throat.

“We will miss leetel garzona. Jakob, he crying, like baby. But I will miss as well.”

“I’m going to miss you too Cook,” Elena had thus far been handling herself well, helped along by the feeling that it was all unreal, but it was hard to pretend to herself that the large man standing in front of her, twisting the end of his apron nervously and blinking rapidly, wasn’t real.

“Well. I must go back to kitchens now, much to prepare. We will… I would say for you to have the luck, but…you will have luck. Goodbye, leetel Elena.”

“Goodbye Cook.” Elena’s vision was blurry as she watched him walk away, and she wiped her eyes on the hem of her sleeve.

“I didn’t realize the two of you were so close,” Niccolo said, “I spent some time in the kitchens, but I don’t think we ever got along that well.”

“To be fair, you were pretty damn lazy when you worked in the kitchens,” Nicci pointed out.

“He’s a good man, he and Jakob both are,” Elena sniffed.

“Don’t say anything. Don’t say a single word.” Frederica’s voice wasn’t particularly loud, but it broke across the courtyard with a kind of fervor that was startling. Elena turned to find the Caelator striding towards her, looking angry and tired. Elena opened her mouth to speak, but Frederica held up a finger and she paused. “I mean it,” Frederica snapped. “I don’t like it when people say goodbye and get weepy and distressed. I had about enough of that when I left home, I don’t need more of it now that I’m here. Here.” She thrust a small box into Elena’s hands.

“Thank you-” Elena began, but quieted again at the look Frederica gave her. She carefully unlatched the box and opened the lid. Sitting within, nestled in a little layer of white cloth, lay a small ermine carved from maple wood, about the length of Elena’s hand. It looked up at her and blinked little wooden eyes, cocking its head to one side with interest. “Dio carino peloso meo,” Elena gasped, staying silent forgotten in the face of the tiny creature.

“Her name is Frell,” Frederica said as if issuing a challenge. “I stayed up all night to make sure it was done. Making something for Vittoria and Carlo too, but I didn’t know if you were leaving Milia or not.” Frell yawned and stretched tiny paws, then scampered up Elena’s arm to sit on her shoulder. Elena was so delighted that she almost dropped the box. The detail in the ermine’s face made her look clever and curious, and its movements were smooth and lifelike.

“She’s beautiful,” Elena breathed, “she’s so pretty!”

“How many of those did you have to make?” Niccolo asked.

“About none of your business,” Frederica replied. “Are you leaving Milia, Elena? No one I’ve talked to knows.”

“Even I don’t know yet,” Elena dragged her attention away from Frell. “I want to send a letter to my mama, and see what she thinks. Now that I know I won’t be a De Luca garzona, I don’t…I don’t really know what to do with myself.”

“What about all of those plans you came up with the first time you didn’t get in?” Ele broke in. “What about starting up a mercantile shop? Apprenticing with some other craftsman?”

“Just because you’re not a De Luca garzona doesn’t mean you can’t become a very successful Fabera, Elena,” Niccolo had been carrying her large bag for her, containing all of her possessions which amounted to a few changes of clothes and a little bit of money, but he set it down now. “The other studios usually leap at the chance to get De Luca students, even when they don’t make it through to become full garzoni.”

Even though he had put it gently, Elena winced.

Failures, you mean.

“I…I really don’t know what I’m doing yet,” she repeated. “I just need to spend a day or two at the inn, and then when I hear back from my mama I’ll know-”

“What has Joanna ever done to help you that wasn’t also helping her?” Ele demanded angrily.

“Ele please, please not this discussion. We haven’t had this fight for months, I don’t need you disparaging my mother at a time when I really need her help.”

“You don’t need your mother’s help, and the past two months have proved it! How much money has your mother made from you, selling all of your crafts over the years?”

Elena pressed her knuckles to the bridge of her nose, feeling so overwhelmed that she could barely think. Frell nudging at her from her shoulder, and Elena let the creature nuzzle at her cheek while she tried to unwind all of the pieces in her mind.

“I’ve been in the care of De Luca, the past couple of months,” she finally responded, “without mama or De Luca I don’t even…I don’t know how to be. I need her advice, I’m going to get her advice, that’s the last I’m going to talk about it.”

“At least look at the other studios. It’s not that different from what you wanted before, at least see what they have to offer.”

“I’m writing to my mother.”

“Someday, at some point, I hold out hope that you’ll actually listen to my advice,” Ele said through clenched teeth.

“I am listening to you, and I’ll look at the other studios, but first I’m going to write to my mother.”

“When my advice is to make the choice without your mother’s input, writing to her is not listening.”

“My mother has helped me, she deserves the right to give me advice.”

“I’VE HELPED YOU!” Ele yelled. Elena flinched, and immediately clenched her own teeth, her hands balling into fists at his outburst. As if picking up on her anger, Ele grew quieter, although his eyes still flashed. “Every step of your life here in Milia I’ve helped you. Every decision, every project, I’ve been by your side, and I’ve not steered you wrong once. You’ve ignored my advice time and time again, refusing to see reason, refusing to learn that maybe you should listen to me just once, even when ignoring my advice results in disaster.”

“I’m sorry that I’m so stupid that I can’t make smart decisions on my own,” Elena said bitterly, “but every ‘disaster’ here has been the result of someone else, or pure bad luck! I’d like to hear one example where your precious oh-so-wise advice would’ve prevented a disaster!”

“Maybe if you had listened to me, you would’ve had time to figure out your Storm and not get kicked out of the studio!”

Elena took an involuntary step back, as if he had slapped her in the face. The courtyard rang in the silence that followed Ele’s retort, his voice reverberating on the marble tiles. Elena’s mind spun as even the echoes of the Echo died away, leaving them in complete silence. She couldn’t even begin to formulate a response, her throat locked with grief and anger and betrayal.

“Listen, you two-” Niccolo began.

“Niccolo, Frederica, there you are!” Pietro bustled across the frosty floor of the courtyard, a small stack of papers in his hand. “Master De Luca would like to see all of the full garzoni in his office, if you would be so kind.” The marble boy gave a polite nod in Elena’s direction, but didn’t seem overly friendly.

“Are you going to be okay? Where can I find you, after this meeting is over?” Niccolo rested a hand on Elena’s shoulder, and although it was comforting she could barely process what he was saying through the haze of anger.

“The…I’ll be at the Inn of Gold,” she finally stammered, “I stayed there with my mother when we first arrived in Milia.”

“The Inn of Gold, I’ll remember. Hang in there Elena, it’s going to be alright I promise you.” Niccolo leaned forward to kiss her on the forehead, and even in her rage Elena blushed slightly.

 


 

Elena had never been reminded so much of her old life as she was on the walk to the Inn of Gold from De Luca’s studio. She kept her gaze locked forward, pretending that Ele wasn’t walking a few steps behind her, trying to think of how best she could phrase her situation to her mother so that Joanna wouldn’t be angry at her. No way was perfect, of course, but if she could word her failure just right, she might avoid a particularly harsh punishment.

The entire way to the Inn, Elena half-hoped that Ele would say something, just so that she could make a point of not answering or responding. For his part he stayed silent, and whenever she stole a glance at him he seemed more interested in staring at the ground a little ways in front of his feet.

Halfway between the studio and the Inn, Elena noticed Cross sitting in one of the streetside cafes, dressed in the green-and-white of Gitti’s studio. The gazes of the two Stormtouched met, and Cross’ eyes widened in recognition, but Elena ducked into an alleyway before the other girl could get up from her chair. She didn’t have the mental or emotional energy to deal with being yelled at for Slug’s death, and if she could avoid interacting with any of the garzoni of any studio she would. Ele opened his mouth as if to say something, but remained quiet.

I don’t want to interact with anyone, Elena thought, as they reached the small inn which somehow seemed even smaller than the last time she had been inside it. I don’t want to do anything, or talk to anyone.

She paid for the room and went straight up the stairs, closing the door in Ele’s face and locking the door as he silently walked through it. The room had a single desk with paper and ink, enough to begin writing the letter to her mother, but instead Elena threw herself onto the bed, clamping her eyes shut and trying to pretend that the past few days were only a bad dream.

None of it happened. None of it was real. Today feels like a dream because it was, that’s all it was, she repeated to herself.

When she opened her eyes, blue light shone through the cracks in her puzzle-piece skin.

 


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15 responses

  1. Panster

    Noo, not her mom again! Grr.

    Great chapter as always! Though I have no idea what “Dio carino peloso meo” is, and Google Translate’s no help.

    Like

    2014-11-19 at 10:48 pm

    • Due to the intricacies of Latinicus grammar, there are two possible translations for “Dio carino peloso meo” that are both completely legitimate and correct.

      The first is “My god, she’s cute and fluffy”

      The second is “Oh my cute and fluffy god”

      I leave it up to the reader to decide on which Elena meant.

      Liked by 1 person

      2014-11-23 at 9:34 pm

      • Panster

        Oh. In that case, it’s totally the second. I’m now trying to picture cute and fluffy gods :P

        Fluffy wooden ermine indeed.

        I knew it was a trivial exclamation, but that bugged me nonetheless. Thanks!

        Liked by 1 person

        2014-11-23 at 11:37 pm

  2. Bobby

    “I think she’s still a little shell-shocked.”
    Did you know the expression “shell shock” comes from the symptoms of soldiers bombarded by artillery shells in World War I? So technically an anachronism for Renaissance Italy. Just in case you care about it. It’s not a big deal.

    Also seconding the confusion with “Dio carino peloso meo”. Something about God and cute fur?

    Like

    2014-11-19 at 11:33 pm

    • Well, with technology the way it is, explosive shells that can cause a similar effect aren’t too outlandish.

      Like

      2014-11-20 at 12:43 am

    • Oh my goodness. Not only *did* I know that, but I have in the past pointed it out to other people as an anachronism. I can’t believe I fell victim to this. GRRRRR

      (Thank you)

      Like

      2014-11-23 at 9:35 pm

  3. zeuseus

    I think it’s approximately: My god she’s cute and furry?

    Like

    2014-11-20 at 12:21 am

    • Man, that makes a lot of sense as a translation doesn’t it…

      Like

      2014-11-23 at 9:32 pm

  4. … …… ……… I hate cliffhangers so much. So very, very much. What’s the point of having cliff hangers when we’re already highly interested in the serial and the next page x_x
    I can predict the first paragraph or two of the next page. She will look at herself or get up and look at herself, unless she’s already standing or sitting, there will be some more information describing what she looks like, she will talk to the other Twisted, and interesting stuff will happen. Stuff that I’m not reading right now. Why am I not reading it right now? The answer is we have a sadistic author on our hands, who loves using the most hated and oldest of all plot devices… Cliffhangers…

    Now if you’ll excuse, me I’m going to cry in a hole. I might crawl out later to complain about the date for the next page again, but I’ll probably have drowned in my own tears once they fill the hole.

    Like

    2014-11-20 at 12:59 am

    • HA, so there AvidFan, she got up and looked at herself and then talked to the other Twisted and interesting stuff DIDN’T happen! Just when you think you’ve predicted the Maddi, the Maddi turns around and surprises you! Bwa ha ha!

      Like

      2014-11-23 at 9:48 pm

      • *Bubbles rise to top of tear filled hole, giving a vague sense of ire.*

        Like

        2014-11-25 at 9:07 am

  5. Eduardo

    Elena is to well conditioned by her mother.
    What her mother will do is obvious, lock Elena somewhere as “punishment” and keep torturing the girl at the same time that she lives of her work.
    And Elena will think that she deserves it.
    The twisted cogs are probably the only thing that can save her.

    Like

    2014-11-20 at 4:58 am

    • I’m glad Joanna Lucciano’s personality comes through enough that people can tell how she’ll react to certain things!

      Like

      2014-11-23 at 9:50 pm

  6. Jat

    I like how you’ve successfully portrayed Elena as being so broken by her mother that she genuinely thinks that she is at fault, that somehow her mother is a decent person. It is artistic.

    Like

    2015-03-30 at 5:20 am

  7. Anonymous

    I love the way this book is shaping up to end, with Elena having to leave the studio. From genre conventions I had been sure something would crop up to let her save her place, especially because there was a big mystery (who did the sabotage) that seemed tailor made for Elena’s famed observational skills to solve. As soon as I saw that her one intact model was the one of the De Luca studio, I was sure that it was a cleverly placed item destined for Elena to use it with her Storm to mentally model the studio and identify the culprit. Or that she’d bust out detective reasoning along the lines of “Vittoria’s eye drawings were among the damaged items in the storage room, so she would have been able to use them to see the culprit in action. Since she didn’t report it she must be the culprit herself.”

    But no. The culprit is found, but not by her, and she doesn’t find out who did it. Sometimes the culprit goes unpunished, the wrong person gets blamed, you can’t solve the mystery, you can’t prove your worth to the most respected studio, and you have to leave. Even if you’re the protagonist. That’s rare to see in stories, and I like that you’ve done it here. It feels much more real.

    Liked by 1 person

    2015-04-14 at 7:27 pm

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