After Alexis was well versed in the Summit he was left to his own devices as Freya returned to her chair. The clock had been removed for its irregular chiming and in its wake silence lay heavily upon the room. Rose quickly abandoned her efforts at self-improvement and began, instead to observe her siblings. Alexis had eagerly pressed his little paws to the window and was glancing eagerly this way and that at those in the courtyard. He never appeared interested in what lay beyond the walls of the compound and upon seeing a politician of prominence adjust his collar, he mimicked the the gesture.
Freya however was gazing into the air before her with unseeing eyes. Her head rested upon the back of her chair and long glossy hair gently flowed down the back. Tendrils softly curled at her long throat yet she made no move to neaten them. Increasing irritation gathered within Rose, inflamed by the boredom she endured. The weight of the silence gave strength the the irritation until she felt almost nauseous. Words from her book, which sang in praise for the unparalleled luxury given to the subjects of the regime and bemoaned the fate of those unfortunate enough to be born outside of the golden sphere, swam before her eyes. She felt a sudden compulsion to fling it from her, however she lacked the daring and rather placed it on the table and rested her head upon it. The clock continued to tick. Alexis remained at his window and Freya remained still.
The doors slammed open. Servants poured into the room carrying bundles of scarlet silk, boxes inlaid with pearls and overflowing with cords of diamonds and gold. The servants wore the same black cotton as was customary but they had gained an exotic air from their cargo. Many of them wore their golden skin as a badge of honour, their darkened complexion and lightened hair bore witness to the months they had spent in some far-flung place. After a brief pause, as though to give the audience room to refocus their gaze, the woman entered. She was swathed in a marigold gauze and glittering jewels hung from her ears. Bold red lines decorated her eyes and coloured her lips, deep brown henna at her temples and hands created a swirling mass. She wore straw sandals that were fraying at the soles, the wild twigs were digging into her feet and to compensate she had developed a lop-sided limp. At each misjudged step the belt created of interwoven gold chains, bells and ancient coins screeched and jangled in indignation. She was so majestically overwhelming that the deadened silence forgot that it was no longer needed and hung over the room in a state of shock.
The piercing scent of spices swept through the air like wildfire and this woman stood tall, enjoying the slack-jawed audience. Feeling that the moment of stillness had lasted too long she began to swish her skirt back and forth spreading the smell of saffron even further. Freya, who had initially jumped in shock, made a small noise of disgust. She stood proudly in her dark clothing and stalked past the woman, pausing in the door she tilted her head back, “Well mother, I see that you’ve set aside this time to humiliate yourself in public. I won’t disturb you.”. Her footsteps could be heard walking down the corridor until she reached the main hall and from there broke into a run.
After Freya’s exit there was a brief pause. The servants - having now fulfilled their dramatic purpose - left in order to put Isabelle’s newly acquired possessions in her chambers leaving her simply standing there. The space around her seemed to close in on her now that the initial shock of her appearance had worn off making the vast and opulent room seem oppressive. Her hair was the same shimmering shade of auburn as her daughters’.
Alexis stared at his mother with wide eyes yet refused to move any closer. Rose could hear footsteps and knew that her father’s approach was imminent. He burst from his study in a flurry of papers. “Bella!” He exclaimed, the delight in his voice was nauseating to Rose who turned away in embarrassment, as though she were looking upon something shameful. Her mother obviously had similar feelings. He moved as though the embrace Isabelle but registered the coldness in her gaze. After an awkward pause she allowed him to kiss her cheek but after that brief contact stepped back. She turned to Rose.
“We are going to a railway opening this evening. You are invited.” Her voice was that of someone who had grown up privileged and there was little to no emotion in her words. She turned and had walked a few steps before turning back to her immobile husband. “David?” Her voice was condescending. He started and hurried after the sweeping skirts and rattling chains of his wife.