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Family Circle 2010 Fiction Contest: "The Ravens Are Leaving the Tower"

I arrive back at the airport with half an hour to spare before my flight to Venice. I check in at the counter and when I say my name, the employee stops clicking her fingernails over the keyboard.

"There is a message for you," she says, with a thick accent. "It is from a Claire Connelly. I will print it out."

My heart pounds as I wait to read the message from Mom. I know that this is it—Eliza is dead. She'd not waited for me to come back and tell her all about Europe. I'm doing a horrible job anyway—the postcards are full of lies. The woman hands me a slip of paper. This is it. It's happened.

Juliet,

Forget about Venice. Eliza is in the hospital. She's waiting for you, but I don't know how long she can wait. Come home.

On the flight to Venice, I can't find a blank postcard, so I use the catalog from the seat pocket in front of me.

E, I write between pictures of bottles of wine, I'm on a plane to Venice so don't worry, I won't forget to feed the pigeons in St. Mark's Square and ride a Gondola and see the Bridge of Sighs. I'll do all of those things and then I'll be home.

Juliet

P.S. I have so much to tell you.

P.P.S. That means don't go anywhere until I'm home.

The airport in Venice exits directly to a marina, and I take a boat taxi to the sinking city. I speak Spanish, hoping it sounds enough like Italian to get by.

"De donde esta St. Mark's Square?" A little louder. "Donde esta?" I forget all of the tenses but it doesn't matter. No one pays attention to me. I follow the labyrinth, walking deeper and deeper to the center.