Nov 15, 2013

Farcequin, Part 6: A civilized moment

In case you've missed the travesty thus far, parts one through five are here. (Click the word, here.)

That evening, Elfreda scrounged through her pitiful wardrobe. NOthing is right, she grumbled to herself. If only I'd had more time to shop... and my savings working three years as a secretary hadn't been so threadbare... finally she donned a rose-colored taffeta gown with silk-ribbon piping and a diamond necklace her grandmother had passed down to her. She ventured down the stairs, stopping every once in a while to consider whether it was a good idea to come to dinner at all.

Finally she entered the dining salon and shuddered a little, seeing him there at the head of the table, wearing his wide-lapeled brown-pinstriped white dinner tux. His hair was quite (unintentionally, she thought) rakish; combed along the top of his head so a curl fell in the middle of his forehead, right between his bright blue eyes.

He stood as she entered the room and gestured rather gracefully and graciously, Elfreda observed with some amazement, for her to take a seat to his right. She did, and sat, looking at her plate, which contained a rather large pieces of meat. She shuddered again, hoping it wasn't more rabid-crock-steaks.

"It's beef," Bobbert commented. Elfreda looked up at him in surprise. The corners of his eyes crinkled. Elfreda quickly looked down again and began cutting into the meat. It was perfect--seared, just a little pink on the inside. But as always, she could only take about seven small bites before she was completely full. Seeing her toy with the rice on the side and the salad, Bobbert commented again. "You have eyes bigger than your stomach."

"Mother's always said that," Elfreda said, then wished she hadn't. Her mother was a sensitive topic. The reason she was here at all... here, marrying Bobbert instead of staying home to be courted by Davian.

"In my case it's rather more about the eyes than the stomach," Bobbert replied, seeming to not notice the tension that had suddenly risen up inside his dinner companion. "You do have extraordinarily large eyes."

Elfreda looked up again, staring at him sadly, perhaps a little beseechingly, with her giant, green, lash-fringed eyes. He looked at her and his expression shifted from amusement to something different--slight concern, maybe. A little sadness of his own.

"Come," he said, standing and nearly knocking over the teakwood chair he'd been overwhelming with his large form. He held out a hand. "You look like you could use some fresh air."

"I've had plenty of that today," Elfreda said wryly.

"Some dancing, then. There's a record player on the patio. I'll put one on, and we can practice for our wedding dance."

Dutifully Elfreda rose, brushed one long, flowing red-gold lock from her shoulder, and followed.

The patio was a beautiful place--planter bowls overflowing with red bougianvilla, narcissus and chrystanthemum clustered in others, as well as some tall iris and tulips. As the music turned on she wondered, fleetingly, what sort of fertilizer the household staff used to get them all to bloom so companionably together, and then Bobbert whisked her up in his arms and, breathlessly, she followed. His dancing was graceful, poweful, flowing, energetic and classily understated. He dipped her several times and even raised her up in a lift over his head, spinning her before he set her on the ground.

"Oh, Bobbert," she couldn't help but exclaim, "You are such a wonderful dancer. And so strong!"

A smile cracked his rock-like features, and he dipped her again, planting a kiss on her brow. When he brought her upright again she raised her face. It was an automatic gesture--a response to the warmth she felt from him, the fun of the dance. Her large eyes gleamed like insouciant emeralds. He looked down on her for a moment, smiled a little, and released her. "You're looking better now," he said. "Would you like a cocktail?"

Elfreda experienced a strange sense of loss--sinking from a cloud to the ground. She nodded and sat, waiting while he mixed and handed her the beverage.

"Tommorrow'll be a long day," Bobbert said. "But at least we won't be in the crocs. We're going out to the herd. Culling the especially sick ones before the season gets cold."

"Herd?" Elfreda asked warily.

"The Emus," Bobbert stated.

Elfreda put a hand to her heart. She remembered the emus--giant, screaming birds. When she'd visited as a child, she'd been terrified of them. She glanced up and saw Bobbert was watching her, and placed her hands back in her lap. "Are you hospicing the birds as well, or is the fact their feathers are worth their weight in gold?"

Bobbert's expression hardened. "Bird flu," he said. "They're dying like flies. THe rangers collect them so we can keep them away from the general population. I have people working on vaccines, using serum taken from the birds we care for until death."

"Very noble of you," Elfreda said shortly. "Well, if I'm to be up early I'd better retire." She turned without waiting for his response and left the room.

Once in her room she flung off the gown, threw herself across her bed and collapsed in sobs. Bobbert was trying to break her. That's what he was trying to do--working her so hard, then being so warm and luring her in at night. Why? What was his purpose? Wasn't he the one who'd insisted she come out to this forsaken place and be his wife, holding her mother's cancerous nose over her as insurance for her obedience?

By the time Elfreda fell asleep, her pillow was completely saturated with tears, and her hair tumbled in a damp heap around her face. She didn't hear the door open, didn't hear him come silently in, didn't know he stood by her bedside for several minutes, looking down on her before he turned and left again.

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