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.
Aksinya and Natalya return to Wien and Sacré Coeur. Aksinya can't abide another moment with her aunt--not after Ernst proposed to her, and she hasn't made a decision about it...
Saturday and Sunday went well. Ernst came on Sunday to escort Aksinya and Natalya to the Orthodox Ecclesia that was close to Sacré Coeur. The crucifix at Aksinya’s breast burned the entire time. Father Dobrushin watched her with an odd look in his eyes. Aksinya became ill at communion, but she didn’t lose her breakfast. Natalya helped her back to her seat and wouldn’t let Ernst near her the entire time.
When Aksinya and Natalya entered Sacré Coeur on Monday morning, every eye in the school followed her. At chapel, the girls and every sister watched her carefully. Aksinya ignored them all. She had to leave before communion, but the tea Natalya made for her between chapel and the first class settled her stomach.
The moment Aksinya and Natalya entered their German classroom, Anna Pfaff followed by the rest of the girls in the class surrounded her, “Countess, we heard that Herr von Taaffe has asked your hand in marriage, is it true?”
Behind them, Sister Margarethe’s face fell. She mumbled, “I didn’t know.”
Aksinya began to push her way past Fraulein Pfaff to her seat, but she suddenly thought better of that, “Where did you hear such a thing?”
“The rumor is all over the school. Please tell us. It is so exciting…”
Aksinya glared, and the girls took a step back.
Anna continued with a trembling stutter, “We are all so happy for you—that is if it is true.”
“I don’t like my personal business shared about, but I will tell you, it is true. At Graf von Taaffe’s New Year’s party, his son, Ernst, proposed to me.”
Anna put her hands together, “What is your answer to him?”
Aksinya growled, “That is definitely my own business. I have not made my decision.”
Natalya grimaced, “She is to give her answer to him next Monday.”
Aksinya turned Natalya an angry look, “Lady Natalya, please don’t share such personal information without my approval.”
Natalya cringed, and dropped her eyes.
Anna turned toward Natalya, “Then Lady Natalya, has the Countess shared her decision with you?”
Natalya shook her head.
Sister Margarethe moved a step toward the girls, and stated in a distraught tone, “It is past time to start class. Please find your seats—immediately.”
The girls slowly broke up and went reluctantly to their desks.
Aksinya stomped to her seat and flopped into it. She wouldn’t speak to Natalya or to Sister Margarethe the entire class.
When we left them, everyone is unhappy. There is the expectation of happiness, but everyone's happiness relies on Aksinya. It isn't just her answer--it is Aksinya herself. Aksinya's answer to Ernst's proposal is like the middle of an endless line of dominos. If her answer falls one way, so will the dominos. If her answer falls the other way... She doesn't have the option to not make a decision. And look at what depends on her decision. Ernst and his father's relationship. Ernst's future in his father's business. The Bockmann's future influence in Wien. The freindship of the Bockmanns and the von Taaffes. Natalya's relationship with Aksinya, and, as we shall see, with others. However, these are all very simplistic concerns compared to the real ones that will shortly manifest themsleves, and these don't depend on Aksinya's decision about the proposal at all.
Ernst is a gentleman. He takes Aksinya and Natalay to their Orthodox Church. Note Father Dobrushin--I don't want to let you forget about him. Notice that the balance of power between Aksinya, Natalya, and Ernst has changed slightly. The crucifix burns Aksinya while she is in the Ecclesia--remember, this is an indicator of her spiritual problems.
The return to Sacré Coeur brings Aksinya unanticipated attention. In the community of the wealthy and privilaged of Wien, this gossip about Aksinya is important and exciting. It was likely the talk of the weekend. Our little romantic, Anna Pfaff wants to know all about it. She thinks this is a safe question. Normally, this would be a great question for any woman, but Aksinya isn't any person. This decision is difficult for her. She isn't happy about it or the attention.
Look at Sister Margarethe's reaction. She is disappointed for more than one reason. The first hint I give you is that she is unhappy because she didn't know. She should have known before any of her students--doesn't she live with and act as a servant for Aksinya?
Aksinya's first reaction is to ignore Anna, but Aksinya isn't in the mood to ignore anything. As Anna tells her, it is a rumor. To her and the others, this is an innocent question. Aksinya can just confirm or deny. Aksinya has a different view. Can't you imagine her response--a "glare." It is so great a "glare," it makes the other girls step back. Still, Anna is intimidated, but her curiousity is greater than her intimidation. She tries to make nice.
We could have guessed Aksinya's answer--she is a private person, but she still tells them that Ernst proposed. Anna's reaction is joy; Aksinya growls. She drops a bomb: "I have not made my decision.”
The interjection of Natalya amazes us. This is new for Natalya. Usually, Natalya only takes this role when Aksinya cannot. The power has changed. Natalya is undercutting Aksinya. She likely thinks she is doing it for Aksinya's own good. Natalya excites Aksinya's anger. This may be the first time Aksinya has been mad at Natalya. Anna bravely asks Natalya--this should show that even Anna detects the change in power. In this moment, Natalya has taken some degree of control from Aksinya. She even answers Anna's question with the shake of her head.
Then we see the other reason for Sister Margarethe's distress--she is worried about losing Aksinya. The implication is that if Aksinya is married, she won't be in school and Sister Margarethe won't be able to take care of her. Aksinya has lost her power and control. The girls are not pushed away by Aksinya's growls or glares but by Sister Margarethe's admonision.
Aksinya realizes she has lost control--she won't speak to either of her most stalwart defenders. The world is changing for Aksinya and the world suddenly depends on Aksinya. Tomorrow, at the opera with Ernst.