By Katrina Alexis
The room was alight with diamonds reflecting tall, ornate chandeliers. The long, pristine white table with its expensive dinnerware and silver candlesticks was surrounded by aristocratic men and women dressed in their finest black. Soft classical played in the background. Crystal goblets clinked. Hushed voices spoke in delicate tones. A twinkling laugh here and there melded into the conversation, creating the perfect banquet atmosphere.
“Hey, down there, pass the mashed potatoes, would ya … please?” The voice was loud and decidedly not delicate. The politeness was an afterthought, though a sincere one. I awoke from my daydreaming to face the reality.
My hostess came to me personally this afternoon to request my presence at dinner. I’m not a cook and knowing I would not be able to help with meals, I had decided not to impose by partaking of them with everyone else. Instead, I usually order take-out or dine alone in the small café I discovered just down the street. But I couldn’t ignore a personal invitation. It seemed to mean a lot to Judy, and it suddenly dawned on me that she probably thought I didn’t care for her cooking. (In the very beginning, I ate at her table out of courtesy as a guest, but now I’m a boarder.)
It was certainly not the cooking I was opposed to this evening. And my hostess, had she worn a fine gown would have certainly belonged in my daydreams. Cassandra, too. As for the rest … I looked around and saw a bodybuilder (One must pump up whatever assets one possesses, I suppose. If not the brain, then the body.); a skittish brunette (Truly, Sarah is a mystery to me. She looks like she’s seen a ghost every time I pass her in the hall. I once caught her peeking out her door into the hall as though making sure the coast was clear. Apparently it was not, because she shut it again very abruptly; but this is all beside the point. Tonight at dinner, we sat next to each other. The girl must have dropped her fork about a dozen times. I can’t imagine what affects her nerves so. Everyone here is obsessively tame. I digress.); a farm boy (Not much to say about him except that it was he, Robert, who interrupted my reverie with his desperate cry for the potatoes.); and an elderly professor, our host.
What an ordinary group. The “castle” is inspiring, but I’m hard-pressed to find a topic worthy of my pen from amongst this gaggle. I mean, they are very decent people, and a person would have nothing to complain about if they were her neighbors. (Hmm, I might have to amend that a little in Lancelot’s case.) But where are my colleagues?
Cassandra may well fit that description. I feel for Cassandra, I do. She tries to create an application process, receives a nameless poem, and ends up with Stuart’s personal picks. To do what she does, she must be either extremely tough-skinned and gutsy or helplessly ignorant and passive. She holds her own despite Stuart’s demands, so it must be the former.