Chapter Ten: Dinner at Eight

     Esteban was handsome, in a sensuous way.  He rolled fine-skinned cigars and drank all the right brandies and sherries, and red clarets.  His clothes had the sheen of richness, excess, and undue luxury.  His words were like honey.  Master Esteban was repellent.  Cool and haughty and repellent.
     Around the table, the distinguished family circled, like vultures, and I, their prey.
     “Such a curiosity, my little cousin,” spoke the cajoling Lisbetta, her lips sucking on a cherry, her eyes like Medusa’s, glowing green fires.
     “How sad, no? Why so sad my dear, do you miss home?” spoke the more open but still predatory Esmeralda.
     “Hmmm, I admit, we are a fiery race — are you sure you are even of the bloodline child?”
     Lisbetta’s eyes widened as she spoke the word bloodline, and bit the cherry off a stem, as if examining me.
     The boy, Josuel, said nothing. He only glowered, as if he could not wait to escape this maddening dinner.
     “But eat,” said my suave benefactor, “it is a good stew, of rabbit. We like to hunt them ourselves.”
     Yes, in that moment, I almost imagined it, with Lisbetta and Esmeralda in tow, nails (or talons) bared, and glum Josuel following, like demented, sick bloodhounds.
     I ate the stew. Felt sickened. Disgusted by the stew itself and my odious but not so inaccurate imagination.
     But hey were monsters! All of them!
     I ate fast, then excused myself out of fatigue again.  I asked if I may wander the grounds during daylight, but Esteban had wanted to talk to me about my purpose being here — why I had been called.
     “Home, they say, is where the heart is,” he said, “but we can discuss this later. If you are tired dear, then please, retire and we shall speak later on.  He seemed to smirk and then excuse himself, and I was gladly left alone.

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