Maddi and I didn't expect to arrive in Italy during Carnevale, but we'd already planned on spending our first night in Venice.

Night didn't feel like night. The wet brick roads reflected every bit of colorful light that shone down on us, and every avenue was covered in tourists and locals—you could tell which was which by how dressed-up they were.

Maddi bought a mask from a vendor—a silver-and-blue mask with white feathers and a smile that seemed to hold a secret. She put it on and winked.

We followed a group of people who seemed to know where they were going, and it wasn't long before we ended up in a big, open square with what must've been hundreds of other people. I still heard laughing and talking, and bells jingling, but I could tell it wasn't coming from those standing nearest me. They stood strangely still and silent. Maddi winked at me and ducked into the crush, toward the sounds. I tried to follow, but I couldn't see her past the full-body costumes and smiling faces.

I called out for her, but the sounds of partying were joined by the peals of a nearby clock tower, drowning out my voice. I closed my eyes and counted, waiting for the tolling to stop. …eleven, twelve. The last knell sang out, and all other sounds ceased. I opened my eyes.

I was alone.