Cortigiana (A Vamp Life Prequel)
In the summer of 1552, I came into this
strange, wondrous, and terrifying world. My father, Zacharia
Angelis, had acquired his wealth with unparalleled business skills.
His transactions, I would later learn, were dubious at best. Theft
and gambling were the staples of his profession. That man I did not
know, to me he was papa, and the provider of everything I could
have dreamed.
Osana Angelis gave me life. If not for her
teachings, that life would have no doubt ended centuries ago.
Though she no longer bore the title of cortigiana onesta, she
shared her knowledge so that I could survive on my own if the need
ever arose.
Nowhere in the world compared to Venice
during that time and never will for me. Strange things lurked
beneath the beauty, behind the masks. Vampires. Not the disfigured
kind that burst into flames at the sight of the sun. These vampires
were much more dangerous because they made you fall in love.
My story starts at the beginning of the end
of life as I knew it.

Flowers of red, white, and purple grew
wildly around the balcony overlooking the canal. The aroma from the
vivid memories intoxicates me still. With poetry book in hand, I
sat hidden amongst the lovely petals and vines of my own secret
garden. My life was relaxation and child’s play, stories and
music.
    “ Evelina!” My mother called
from the kitchen.
I dropped the book onto the balcony and, in
my rush, kicked it with my bare foot. The tome slipped through the
bars and somersaulted into the depths of the water below. An angry
gondolier lifted his fist in the air and I ducked down into hiding
behind the colorful blooms. Little did I realize, my innocence
would soon be swept away as easily as the lost book. Irretrievable.
Gone for a longer eternity than I could have ever imagined.
    “ Evelina!” This time my
mother’s voice sounded less composed and desperate.
    “ Coming, Mamma!” I lifted my
skirt a little as I ran down the stairs so as not to trip. “I am
sorry. I lost track of time. I will practice the harpsichord for an
extra hour.” Two men with serious expressions were standing near my
mother. She had been crying. The very tip of her only slightly
oversized nose glared red to match her cheeks.
Mother gestured for me to come to her side
and I did as I was told. “These men have to borrow some of our
things. I am sending you to stay with your aunt for a while.”
    “ Tell me what is happening.
Father would not approve of this!” I shot the men hateful glares
like an arrogant child, though after declining each proposal sent
my way, I bordered on becoming an old maid. Most of my friends had
been married for years.
I was led into the kitchen. My mother placed
her hands firmly on my shoulders. “Listen to me closely. I was a
fool to let you deny marriage for so long. Now I fear for what you
may have to do to survive.” She almost broke down again. “I am
sorry, Evelina. If I never see you again, know that your father and
I loved you.”
Before I could begin to process what was
going on, the men rushed me out of the only home I had ever known.
“Mother!” I screamed as the strangers released me to my uncle. When
I darted back inside, he wrapped his arms around my waist and
dragged me out the front once more. I was kicking and screaming.
Mother’s golden hair billowed in the wind as she fell to her knees
and reached out in despair.

Uncle Luca and Regina lived in a poorer area
than I had. We were all sitting around the table as they discussed
what to do with me. Never did they ask how I felt or answer any of
my questions about what was going on. I eventually stopped asking
and stared vacantly as they spoke of me as if I were less than
human and more than a nuisance.
    “ No one is going to marry
her. Her reputation is soiled by the actions of my welching brother
and his whore of a wife. Criminals! Liars! Thieves!” Uncle Luca
ranted, slamming his fist down on the table only a few inches in
front of me, causing me to jump. Luca’s belly

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