What took place from then on was the greatest release she had ever known. Veronica stood on the deck of the ship thinking of the multitude of difficult journeys she had undertaken to make her way to Barcelona in the past, laughing at how happy they had always made her. She mused at how those moments had paled against this journey now.
The pain of her aunt’s death was no longer a threat to her, for in leaving the city, she had somehow escaped the agony altogether. The sorrow she harbored now was only an exquisite expression of love, a memory of the ecstasy she had known for almost a year while living with her aunt. There was no pain involved now. The final tears that escaped her eyes last night carried only a great happiness for the warmth shared between them. Their love had not died with Marcelina’s body, and in those few days, this had been her greatest fear. She had believed that their love had come to an end, and that nothing could ever return her to the joy she had felt in the woman’s arms.
But on this mighty ship, steaming through the Mediterranean, Veronica at last knew that the joy of Marcelina’s love carried on with her. It had followed her from Barcelona and embraced her now, as a mother would. Her aunt’s memory was now the most tangible object of love that she would ever need, and she witnessed the morning light fall upon the last glimpses of Spanish land as it departed the horizon without regret or mourning.
In Rome, Veronica had surrendered herself to the experience without hesitation. It had proven itself from the very first minute to be everything she had dreamt of. A city so indescribably beautiful, even in its ancient decay, that she was left to marvel over every single wall and sidewalk that she came across. And once settled, she resolved to henceforth never allow herself to cry for anything. There were enough statues of crying women there already.
At the end of the week, Veronica had settled into a sparkling glow of contentment with her new life in the Eternal City. She ventured to all the sights that tourists flocked to, quite satisfied to hear her tour guide describe the Trevi Fountain or the Pantheon in his broken Spanish. And upon confronting the Colosseum, resplendent even millennia later, with only her massive bones to shield her from the scars of time, Veronica could still hear Marcelina describe its beauty when she closed her eyes.
In all, she had only ventured to the boulevard where her hotel rose above the rooftops but a couple times to see the Romans bustling through the shops and restaurants. Still, she was already one of these people at heart. A lifetime spent here would not be necessary to change Veronica. She had already taken on the bold, aggressive walk of its citizens.
From her suite atop the six-story Palazzo Lozano, she marveled at the city’s burned glory as the sun began to set behind the silhouettes of its many towers and massive palaces. In the far distance, the dome of St. Peter’s stood directly west to mark the sun’s completion of this glorious day.
Dolça asked from off somewhere behind her if Señor Borges might have a moment to deliver a correspondence from her attorneys, to which Veronica simply nodded.
He strolled quietly in and began delivering his complements on his accommodations and her generosity, which, now at the end of the week, had become a custom for the man. But she was only too happy to find him reliable in his praise.
Señor Borges did not have anything new to say this evening, but produced a letter from Señor Rios in Barcelona, which she took from him. After quietly dismissing him, she turned away, returning to her balcony.
A warm spring breeze drifted through the small potted trees in the courtyard of her balcony when she broke the wax seal of the letter, as if heralding its arrival. It was a single sheet of paper with only three lines written in Señor Rios’ own hand, which she was now very familiar with.
2 May, 1849
To the Marquesa de Amontoní,
It is with much regret that I must write to inform you that I have received word from Doña Francesca Martell de Ferrero, who wishes you to be told that her son, Dídac, has died for unspecified reasons. As you are not here to do so, I have sent the proper condolences in your place.
In this time, when so much has befallen you, I am left only to continue with my most heartfelt sympathies for you during this terrible season.
Señor Vincente de Rios
It was perhaps the last breath of sorrow that she could bring herself to exhale, like a prayer. Behind it, she spoke a single word, over and over. It became a mantra for Veronica as she turned her eyes to the fire blazing in the scattered clouds over the horizon. “Dídac,” she repeated under her breath. She had not dared say his name since the morning Marcelina left her.
With the death of the sun’s light under the Roman horizon, the fifth Marquesa de Amontoní abandoned the agony of the past year, allowing herself to be reborn under the infant stars as they broke through the canopy of the twilight sky.
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