At dinner, the little episode with Natalya is over, but not forgotten. Do you note the atmosphere. After a little blowup at your table--isn't it the same?
The soup was served and there was little conversation. Aksinya had a few moments to think about the week that had passed.
The fish was served. Aksinya was still thoughtful. No one had asked about Asmodeus. It was as if he had never existed. Aksinya did wish he had never existed. Still, because of him, she was where she was with Natalya and her aunt and uncle. At the table, she suddenly looked on all of them with a new light. Were they all temptations for her? Or was she a temptation for them?
Freifrau Bockmann leaned toward Aksinya, “Are you all right, Countess?”
Aksinya glanced down, “I’m just a little light headed from the wine.”
Freiherr Bockmann smiled, “Yes, it is a bit strong for the vintage. I find it refreshing. I hope you do too.”
Aksinya nodded. The meat was served.
Freifrau Bockmann continued, “Now about this party.”
The Freiherr glance up from his stuffed Jagerschnitzel, “The Advent party?”
“Yes, I want to introduce the Countess and Lady Natalya to our social sphere.”
“At the party…yes, that’s a splendid idea.”
“I want to introduce all our friends, and I’d like to invite some dashing young men on the register to meet the Countess and her lady-in-waiting.”
“Not many young men left after the war…” the Freiherr was introspective.
“All the more reason to invite them and introduce them to these ladies. You don’t expect them to remain unmarried all their life?”
“Course not, I just hadn’t thought about it much.”
Aksinya and Natalya didn’t say a lot. They answered questions but didn’t volunteer any information.
After coffee, Aksinya and Natalya went up to their rooms. It was the same suite of rooms they had been given before. Natalya prepared Aksinya and herself for bed. They sat together on the sitting room’s couch. Natalya sewed. Aksinya read. After a while, Aksinya put down her book, “Nata.”
Natalya jerked up, “Yes, Countess…”
“Do you remember my courtier, Asmodeus.”
“Yes, he has such a funny name. It reminds me of something.”
“Do you find it peculiar that he isn’t here?”
Natalya glanced around, “In your room?”
“I didn’t mean specifically here, I meant with me, in this place,” Aksinya turned her eyes on Natalya, “That is, don’t you find it odd that he didn’t travel with us? Or that he isn’t here?”
Natalya shrugged, “I just thought he might be at your house.”
“You don’t find that odd either—or that I asked you not to tell my aunt or uncle.”
Natalya brought her brown innocent eyes to Aksinya’s. She smiled, “I’m very used to secrets, Countess…I mean Aksinya.”
“Yes, so you are. Please don’t keep any from me.”
Natalya gave a slight smile and returned to her sewing.
Okay a little introspection. I don't do it often. I don't like it, but I wanted to give you a small trick to make you think about this little conundrum of Aksinya's. The question is: where is the demon and why doesn't anyone realize he is gone (other than her)?
The other little "inception" (I just saw the movie) I wanted to place in your mind was the idea of temptation. Aksinya knows where the demon goes, temptation follows. Are these people and things temptations for Aksinya? The answer is, of course, yes.
Freifrau Bockmann notices the tension and wants to break the silence anyway. This is the way you do it. Plus, the wine, did you note, Aksinya likes wine--she'll like it more soon. This is so much part of the temptation of luxuria.
I also wanted you to see the courses in the dinner, again. You will see them again too--later. So, about the party. This is a repeat. It's purpose is to show how the thought is fixed in the Freifrau's brain. I also get to give you a little more info at the times--the war comment and the point of it all, to meet suitors. This is very important.
The conversation between Aksinya and Natalya gives further light to the Asmodeus issue and lets you see more of the changing relationship between them. The final point of this part and this conversation is the idea of secrets. Already, Natalya and Aksinya are sharing secrets. Listen to Natalya, I'm very used to secrets. She is telling us that she has secrets--therefore Aksinya's answer to her and the smile. We are building gradually to a pivotal scene.