I could hear them gossiping. Oh Benalus, the gossiping.
Matri and Nonna were chatting up a storm over tea and pastries in the kitchen like they do every Sunday morning. I was trying to slip past unnoticed to go run amok for the day. Obviously I don’t spend enough time with Papà, as Matri heard me trying to creep to the door.
“Teté, come here!”
“Matri, please call me Hekté…” I begged.
“Oh Hekté, give your Matri a break!” Nonna chimed.
“I just came of age! Can’t you let that silly nickname go?”
“I know you’re an adult now,” Matri chided, “Let me hold onto the nickname.”
“Fine,” I conceded, “But do you HAVE to be talking about… y’know…”
“Marriage?” Matri asked.
“Si! Yes! Why?!..” I cried, exasperated.
“Well,” Matri explained, “We may not be a super wealthy family, but we can afford to arrange you to marry into a richer family. You have the brains to work in the ports! Think of where that will get you! Plus, Nonna will kill me if I don’t get you a nice girl.”
Nonna chuckled and sipped her tea.
Matri continued, “The nice Capacian girl in the port is still single, and I was considering sending a proposal soon. There’s also the Bookkeeper’s daughter – you remember her, right? I’ve also been looking at some of the available gentry, but I don’t think I could buy off anyone’s fathers yet…”
Matri kept rambling on about prospective partners to Nonna. I had my hand on the door handle when Nonna caught my eye. She smiled, and then winked. I smiled back, a little uncertain and fled the house before Matri started asking questions I couldn’t – or shouldn’t – answer.
I took a quick pace to Aquila’s rookery, in need of some work to keep my mind busy. The cobblestone sidewalks were full of people bustling to and fro on their morning errands, and the canals were alive with gondolas of goods. I turned toward the capital buildings, where the rookery resided and where the wealthy and the gentry chose to live.
The Mistress waited within the rookery, flowing robes showcasing her insane wealth. A number of well-kept ravens stood tall and haughty around her as she looked through a ledger.
“Buongiorno, Mistress,” I greeted. She looked up, long dark hair spilling over her shoulders.
“Buongiorno Hekté. What brings you here on your day off? Is your family gossiping again?”
“Si. You know I’d rather take the Sunday shifts. It gives me an excuse to leave the house.”
The Mistress laughed, “Hekté! I’ve told you that we don’t send anything out on Sundays! I’m sorry, there’s not anything I can do right now.”
“Well, it’s getting out of hand!” I exclaimed, “I’m not interested in girls or marriage! I just need to get out of that!”
The Mistress glanced at her ledger, then back to me. She smiled shrewdly, “Of course, you could always tell them that. Or maybe not. I remember being your age and wanting to be my own person.”
I shuffled my feet, “If I may ask, what are you getting at?”
“Hekté, I think I have an assignment for you.”
The Mistress picked up an envelope, and passed it to me. It was fresh and smelled of ink still, so I knew it had just been written. She placed her hand on mine, and said:
“That letter needs to get to Stragosa”.