For those who haven’t been following this blog, let me introduce it a little. I am currently blogging my 21st novel that has the working title Daemon. The novel is about Aksinya, a sorceress, who, to save her family from the Bolsheviks, called and contracted the demon, Asmodeus. Her family was murdered anyway, and she fled with the demon from Russia to Austria.
We know about the ballet Aksinya and Ernst are about to see. We see it parallels Aksinya's life. Now, to the ballet...
The curtain rose and the ballet began. Throughout, laughter from the audience punctuated the performance. Natalya and Ernst both chuckled under their breath. Aksinya didn’t laugh. She had never laughed in the theater. Her lips did turn up many times in a gentle smile.
During the very delightful ballet, Aksinya remembered the words of Fraulein Trauen. She took surreptitious glances to see where Ernst’s eyes dwelt. Every time she looked, his eyes were focused on her profile. She couldn’t help but blush. She wasn’t certain he ever glanced at the very beautiful ballerinas who danced on the stage.
At the intermission, a butler delivered caviar and Champaign to their box. Ernst served Aksinya, “Countess, would you rather have vodka?”
“I do like vodka, but Champaign with caviar is my favorite.” She inclined toward him, “Plus, I’m not sure how much vodka I should drink. The wine at dinner went a little to my head.”
Ernst refilled her glass. Natalya watched closely. She barely sipped at her still filled glass.
Aksinya watched the second Act with greater enjoyment. Ernst thought he heard a giggle from her a couple of times. Natalya frowned.
They returned home late. It wasn’t too late, but still late. Aksinya leaned sleepily against Natalya the entire trip back to the house. Aksinya could not stand without help. Natalya wouldn’t let Ernst sit next to Aksinya. When they exited the landau, Natalya did let him help her on one side while she held Aksinya on the other.
Sister Margarethe met them at the door. She took one look at Aksinya and pulled both her charges into the house. She was wary of Ernst this time—she partially closed the door and stood directly within the opening, “Thank you, Herr von Taaffe for your attention to the Countess this evening. I will help the Lady Natalya see her to bed.”
“Please convey my thanks to the Countess.”
“Next time, don’t ply her with so much wine so you may convey your own sentiments.”
Ernst bowed, “Yes, sister. I shall. I’m sorry.”
When Sister Margarethe turned around, Natalya and Aksinya were already gone. When she climbed up to Aksinya’s room, she found the door already shut and locked. It was much too late for tea, so she returned to her room.
I own a wonderful modern style oil titled, Theater Goers. The painting depicts a group of people who are attending some kind of performance. You see them from the vantage of the performers. You don't know anything about the performance, but the theater goers are enough to drive the theme of this painting.
Aksinya, Ernst, and Natalya are the theater goers. We have the benefit of knowing something about the ballet they are watching, but in the end, the ballet isn't as important as the conversation (or lack of conversation) and actions of our players.
At first Aksinya doesn't understand that she might show some emotion during the performance--she is typically emotionless. She does allow herself a smile, but perhaps that is the wine. Aksinya's mind is indeed lacking her typical control. She remembers Fraulein Trauen's silly words and checks to see where Ernst is watching. Both we and she are surprised that he only has eyes for Aksinya. Aksinya's blush indicates her emotions and her state of inebriation. Ernst's eyes tell us much about the man and his intentions.
At intermission, Ernst supplies Champagne and caviar. You should wonder at Ernst's question: does he ask Aksinya if she wants vodka because he is trying to get her more drunk to take advantage of her, or is he truly trying to cater to her desires--or both. The fact that Aksinya reveals she drank too much tells us about her state. She would never confess something like that to someone like Ernst. She is usually in much more control of herself.
Watch Natalya. She is keeping a close eye on Ernst and Aksinya. Aksinya's giggles, and her enjoyment of the second act only emphasize her lack of control. Natalya frowned. Natalya has good reason to frown. Aksinya fell into the temptation of luxuria Ernst produced (and certainly Asmodeus suggested). She perhaps felt safe enough to allow herself to accept the temptation because she knew Natalya would be there to watch over her. Natalya realizes this. She just doesn't like to see Aksinya dependent on anyone. Natalya doesn't see Aksinya dependency on herself. She only sees Ernst becoming important in Aksinya's eyes. This is a very important point in the novel, and one we will see more than once. We are building right now to the critical pivotal point of the novel. The ultimate crisis of the entire work.
Sister Margarethe waited up for her charges. She is not happy with Akisnya's condition. She is wary of Ernst now. He can't use his trick to get inside the door again. She takes out her anger on Ernst. Sister Margarethe is concerned for many reasons. The primary is that she can't control Aksinya at all. Aksinya is not within anyone's control. Asmodeus even despairs at controlling her. Sister Margarethe believes very rightly that she could never stand up against Aksinya. This means she is not capable of protecting Aksinya. But we know no one can protect Aksinya.
Sister Margarethe, like any woman, mother, or girl's friend, wants to know what happened during the evening. Aksinya and Natalya are already up in Aksinya's rooms--they have locked the doors. I don't tell you she is disappointed, but you know it. Tomorrow, the aftermath of the evening.