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La Don-a: The Rise of the Swan - 8

Updated: Feb 19


Author's Note: Warning this chapter of this Historical YA contains mentions of domestic violence, mentioned/implied rape, and child abuse.


8 Gin Rickey: To the cards life dealt you


A few years earlier


The leak in the bathroom was back and the radiator was cold with not signs of warming up fortunately this winter wasn’t too harsh so Margarita Smith ‘nee’ Salazar didn’t have to worry about that until hopefully much later. She sat on the table counting the coins she had left after paying the rent that had been past due and her husband had ‘forgot’ to pay again. This was a common occurrence ever since they agreed that he would handle the rent while she took care of everything else. More often than not her husband would disappear on pay day then reappear when the money was gone. This time was much worse as his pride had almost got them evicted. She had not known how past due they actually were, they've always been a little over but all her husband would say is “I got it” before leaving the house again or going to sleep as if he didn't have a care in the world. Her children could have lost their home and she wouldn’t have been able to do anything because her husband was too prideful to admit he failed. If the super had not caught her and demanded the rent, she wouldn’t have known how bad things were.


“Oh I apologize, Willie gave me the money but I simply forgot.” She didn’t want anyone to know of their issues, her children did not need to know their father was a failure. So she kept covering for him in front of others so they would have the image of a good father, one that she never had and if for this people saw her as a dumb dora than that was a small price to pay.


Margarita was also a shame to admit that her husband preferred to spend money on drinking and other women than his own family. She was exhausted, Christmas was coming and her children were asking for so many things. She desperately wanted to get them at least one thing on their very long list but her two jobs barely paid for the bills and necessities. Now she also had to find a solution to the heating issue before winter hit them hard. When she told him about buying presents for the children he claimed he didn’t have any money despite earning a lot more than her two jobs combined. Then Margarita saw him with a woman laughing sweetly in his arms as he gave a little boy with the woman some coins to keep him distracted. It infuriated her to see how generous he was to strangers while to his children it was always “I don’t have money.”


In spite of this, Margarita was just thankful that Willie was not like Miguel. He never raised his hand to her or her children although in anger he threatened to do so but he never did. It could be because Margarita got in his way, she let him threatened them so that the children will still respect him but more than that and she stepped in especially when he was drunk and didn’t have control of his own strength. “You do that and you’re going to have to kill me because I will rip your hands off.” From experience she knew how much drunk hits could hurt and the damage they could cause, she learned from her mother that it was her duty as the mother to protect her children although unlike her mother she refused to protect them by taking the hits until she was no longer conscious, leaving them defenseless.


From the moment Margarita met her husband she was enamored, he was so charming and sweet it was so unlike what she was used to seeing from a man and it had her immediately head over heels. Margarita had never been what would be considered a lady or even pretty. Since she turned seven she began to wear men’s clothing, she even kept her hair short after her father chopped it all off in a drunken fit of rage. She remembers her mother had fixed her hair while Margarita cried especially when the kids at school laughed at her but she later noticed that boys treated her better when they could pretend she was one of them. This meant that all her friends and interactions were with boys and since her father treated her better when he could pretend that she was a boy then she started acting like one. This meant her language was often crass, her mannerisms were not lady-like and her gestures were rough.


This also meant that when she hit her growth spurt instead of just growing womanly curves, Margarita also grew muscles from all the manual labor and fights she got into. Something that got her teased even more and forced her to just leave school all together with the excuse of helping her mother by getting a job although she had already been working while in school. When eventually the girls her age began getting married and being courted, Margarita was able to fool herself into thinking that she didn’t want it. That she did not need a man “I’m more of a man than most.” She often joked to hide the pain of loneliness and rejection. She had never told anyone, but she once went on a date only to be laughed at and sneered for being such a man. Some men even asked her to prove she was truly a woman by showing them that she lacked one crucial part only men had.


“Margarita never speaks of it or would even admit it to herself but she was by far the most ‘lady-like’ of all of us, even Dorothy. She loved wearing make-up, heels and looking up the latest trend. She often made her own make-up with things she could find, I remembered she once used beets found in the trash behind Mr. Petroli’s market and mixed it with oil. Once it dried she used it as lipstick and blush, in fact Dorothy would often steal it from her to use it herself.” Geraldine smile affectionately at the thought of her eldest sister and the sweeter side to her that she hide even from herself.


“Then why does she not show it? She has only ever been seen in trousers…”


“Because the world decided that a woman like her should not like those things, she was a tomboy and that meant she could not like or use things meant for women. In the world, if we are not damsels in distress, the weak creatures waiting for or begging a man to save them, then we’ve surrendered our womanhood and therefore cannot reap or enjoy its rewards.”


“That’s not true, we just have to fight for the right to be both…” Helen declared passionately, growing up with mostly brothers she loved playing sports with them and she understand many wanting to force women to fit a certain role or no role at all.


“You really think it’s that simple? Don’t be naïve! That is not going to get you in office. From the beginning of time it has always been the same for women, it is either/or, but never both. Margarita knew this and the faster you learn this the easier your life will be.” Geraldine responded with her own passion and firmness that left no room for arguments.


“You want me to accept such limitations? Why can’t I have it all?!”


“Who says you can’t?”


“But you just said…” Helen was confused but the famed Mama Swan just smirked.


“I said learn it, not accept it.”


“Marguerite, what did you cook?!” Willie arrived at their small apartment as he always did, no greeting or affection, just demands. Her husband might not be violent or abusive like Miguel but he never helped with the house expenses yet he still expected three meals a day, his clothes cleaned and ready, as well as the house clean and for her to be ready to please him when he was in the mood. He also insisted on using the English pronunciation of her name because according to him ‘she was in America’ therefore she had to adapt as if she had not been born in the country.


“The money you left wasn’t enough.” She couldn’t help but sneer, they both knew that he didn’t leave any money for her to work with. She was tired of her husband’s shameless behavior and while she wouldn’t acknowledge it in public, in private she was more than happy to let him know what she thought.


“Okay,” the man simply said before turning around and leaving again but at this point in their marriage Margarita was pass caring.


Her children were in bed sleeping peacefully with full stomachs and that was all she cared about. Did she cry when she was alone in her bed? Not anymore, but did it still hurt her knowing that they both knew what he was out doing and it still wasn’t enough to stop him? Yes, it did. Her husband had no respect for her or the home they built yet she stayed not only because it was expected of her but she also loved him more than she should. Margarita always assumed that men were arrogant, inconsiderate, stupid, brutes that threw their strength and power around to get what they wanted and to oppress those they feared most. But when she first met her husband he was so caring and charming, he was the first man to ever call her beautiful. He constantly brought her presents before their children were born and praised her for being so hard working.


According to Geraldine, she let herself be lulled into a false sense of security. Like a mouse led to a trap with a piece of delicious cheese. When her son was born, her husband spent more time out of the house but he bragged about her and their son so she ignored it. She also felt accomplished for giving him a son instead of the many daughters her mother had, at least it would save her from suffering her mother’s fate something all the Salazar sisters secretly feared.


A year later, before she could fully finish breastfeeding her son, she fell pregnant with their daughter. It was a hard pregnancy that had her often ill and she almost died giving birth which had her on bedrest with a newborn and a one year. Fortunately she had amazing sisters and both Anna and Dorothy came over to help, Geraldine would also babysit after school sometimes but she hated leaving Elsie alone for too long so she couldn’t do it often. Their help was still the only reason that she survived and Margarita would be eternally grateful. Despite everything, she couldn’t make herself regret falling into Willie’s trap because it got her the two greatest gifts she could ever ask for and she wouldn’t trade them for anything.


“Margarita was an amazing mother, in my opinion even greater than our own mother because Margarita was a true lioness. She was the one to provide and hunt for the pride while the ‘lion’ sat back and reaped the rewards of her hard work. But most of all she wouldn’t have hesitated to kill the useless husband of hers the moment he raised his hands at her children and they both knew it. Margarita was a fighter, a little too eager to please and make everyone else happy in my opinion but still a fighter.”


“Is that why she’s…?” Helen's question was cut off as Geraldine continued talking making it clear that they will not get ahead of the story and talk about certain things until she said so.


“Anna on the other hand was not, she was the complete opposite of Margarita but her true curse was that her husband knew that and was not afraid to make sure it stayed that way. He was a typical man and they, unfortunately, had a typical marriage at least for those times.”

 

Far from the city, across the Hudson river and all the way up the deepest part of the Bronx, where the city makes way to the suburbs stood a cream colored Victorian home that was a mixture of siding and stucco. Inside the living situation of another Salazar sister was the complete opposite from Margarita’s and not just in appearances. Anna knew she was not as strong as Margarita, as resilient as her mother or heaven forbid as defiant as Geraldine. She wasn’t calculative like Stella or carefree and charming like Dorothy and she definitely did not have Elsie’s beauty and grace. She had always been jealous of her sisters and the way they each had something that helped them survive and even thrive. Anna had nothing that could help her, she wasn’t special or even average instead she was below average and that was something that her husband soon discovered.

Richard Johnson was what he would call a pure American. His parents and grandparents were all born and raised in the country and had never stepped foot outside of it, this was something he was extremely proud of and from their very first night together took great pleasure in throwing in Anna’s face. For them there was no honeymoon period, even on their first night Richard was rough and brutal without a care for Anna’s cries and pleads, he even covered her mouth when they became too much for him “Shut up! You're ruining the mood.” She shuddered at the memory of how her husband just turned over once done, leaving her a bruise and bleeding mess. The next night was no better as there was no recovery period. When she timidly asked all she got was a “I waited too long to have a broad, besides, I need to get my money’s worth.” During the day she was expected to clean and cook despite the pain, there was no break for her until she had her period which her husband was disgusted by and spent most of the days out of the house. Despite the cramps, those were Anna’s favorite days of the month.


Anna had rejoiced for those five days and every time they came but then felt guilty, since as a wife it was her duty to please and care for her husband. After her first ‘rest’ she learned to prepare herself, make sure that food was always ready, the house was always clean and she was always ready and available for Richard to use even in inappropriate places like the kitchen. The first few months of their marriage she did not see her family or hear from them. It hurt her that her family seemed to not miss her, she could not blame them for wanting to be rid of her since she was so useless as her husband insisted on reminding her.


Flashback


Cleaning her husband’s study one day she found letters addressed to her which she thought was strange. Anna was sure that Richard must have brought them in with the mail and simply forgot to give them to her. She opened them to see that they were from her sisters and mother. She had been shocked and sad when seeing the dates of some of them, it had been the first and only time she confronted her husband.


“Why did you not tell me my family was writing to me?”


“Have you been going through my things?” There was a dangerous tone to Richard’s voice that was a mixture of threatening and surprised.


“I was just cleaning and saw them, I opened them as they were addressed to me…” The slap was harder than any of the ones before and it knocked her to the floor, her lip bleeding and her cheek bright red as she stared wide eyed at her husband looming over her.


“Address to you? Do you think you have any rights here?! The rest of the world might be stupid enough to think that women are useful for something, but in this house you are nothing and you have nothing.” The blows rained down on her and all Anna could do was roll into a ball and pray for it to stop soon. The most painful were the kicks to her stomach, “you clean, cook and open your legs when I want you to, is that clear?!”

“Yes! Please…” She heard the telltale sign of her husband undoing his buckle and closed her eyes trying to prepare herself for what was to come.


“That’s…Please tell me you took care of that beast in the worst way possible.”


Helen was disgusted and furious, no woman deserved such horrible treatment. She always felt that man like that were weak and they knew it, that was the reason why they attacked others who they thought weaker than them.


“I didn’t have to, Anna is a Salazar after all.”


“Yes, but she’s clearly not the most assertive.”


“And that is what makes her the most dangerous.” Geraldine declared with a smirk as she winked at the young woman that seemed doubtful and confused.


“Don’t you ever fucking dare question me like you have any right, oh and you will not contact that disgusting family of yours unless you want to be taught how a real wife should behave.” Anna couldn’t stop her body from shaking from the pain both emotional and physical. “Clean yourself up, you're making a mess.” She could feel more blood than usual running down her legs but she could not make herself stand up or even move. Fortunately her husband left the house giving her time to compose herself.


Flashback end


Thinking about it, Anna doesn’t know how long it took her to move let alone clean up. The important thing was that when her husband returned everything was clean and she was no longer on the floor. Her eyes watered at the thought of what she lost that day, it turned out that the excessive bleeding was due to something much worse than her husband’s treatment. Even worse when Richard found out he blamed her “you are absolutely useless even for a woman.” The good thing was that the beatings stopped as the man didn’t seem to want to risk it ever happening again.


“Anna wanted a child so badly but even without the beatings, her husband’s treatment was still too harsh and she suffered continuous miscarriages. The doctor even recommended that they stop trying as another one so soon could kill her.”


“How could it…?”


“At a point she had three miscarriages in two months.”


“Oh my…!”


“Richard didn’t really care, there was no doubt he would have risked Anna to get a child but fortunately for my sister he became distracted, although at the time Anna didn’t see it as a blessing.”


Anna could do nothing but blink as she stood at the front entrance, she had been putting the final touches on the special place setting when she heard the door. Her husband told her they would have an important guest over for dinner and she was to make sure they were welcomed and impressed. She had expected his boss or even his father but not a young woman that seemed younger than Anna’s twenty-one years. At first she was sure it was her husband’s sister but she doesn’t remember seeing her at the wedding. The girl was very beautiful with short blonde hair and a flat figure like she’s seen in ads on the paper. She wore the trendy calf length loose, low waist dresses instead of the hip-hugging big pocket ones that Anna preferred as they were more practical for chores. In just seconds she felt like an old, decrepit lady long past her prime. Anna never considered herself ugly but in that moment she could not help but feel like a used ragged before an embroidered handkerchief.


“...Boss’ daughter.”


“Pardon?” Richard rolled his eyes in annoyance, Anna flinched expecting a glare or even a hit but the young girl giggled -a musical and happy sound that reminded her of Dorothy- and suddenly her husband’s expression completely changed. To her shock he actually smiled and there was so much affection in his eyes that Anna could not help but be morbidly fascinated at seeing what affection from her husband looked like.


“Forgive me, will your father be joining us?” once more she seemed to have ruined her husband’s mood as he became closed off and glared at the question.


“Stop asking stupid questions and just serve the meal.” Anna flinched but walked away as ordered.


“There was no need for that,” She could hear the young girl’s voice -as musical as her giggles- she wondered beside youth what the girl had done to earn such a side from her husband, one which she was never even given the opportunity to earn.


“She’s extremely dimwitted and otherwise wouldn’t understand. Nothing like you,” She heard a sound that made her freeze and she rushed over to take a peak and saw her husband kiss the young girl’s hand as she smiled at him. She wondered who the charming gentleman before her was because he was not the husband that beat their first child out of her or the one that violently takes his pleasure until she bleeds and could barely walk the next day.


“Why do I not deserve that man?”


“He was having an affair!? And he dared take her to his home so his wife may cook for them, what a…?!” Helen's fury reached a new height as he stood up and stomp around trying to find the right words although none seemed to fit.


“He knew that Anna would say nothing during or after and she didn’t. She might be a lot of things but Anna was perspective, she knew everything that went on around her, she just did not have the bravery to act.” Geraldine praised her sister although her words sounds bittersweet almost as if she lamented that Anna lacked bravery or as if that personally hurt her.


“Not like Dorothy, who while lacking actual subtext, was not afraid to act and go after what she wanted or even confront those that wronged her. Although for Dorothy it was less lack of self-preservation and more being too airheaded to know what that was. Despite this at that time Dorothy was by far the best off out of all of us.” Instead of being jealous Geraldine smiled as if happy that one of her sisters was doing well despite her own suffering. This calm Helen knowing that at least for now they were done talking about Anna.


“Her husband was much older but he had no interest in her as a woman or wife, he already had kids who were old enough to not need a mother. He owned his own speakeasy and while it wasn’t a fancy club with jazz bands and a ballroom dance floor, it still brought in good money that kept them living comfortably. Because in that time even dingy basements made good money as long as they offered alcohol. All Dorothy had to do was look pretty and help out.”


“No expectations or duties to fulfill? That sounds like a dream come true for anyone.”


“It did but we’ve established that Dorothy wasn’t the brightest bulb in the house although to her credit she actually found something she was good at, to her discredit it was never enough.”

 

“Hey Dorothy, is it a mixed drink kind of night?”

A regular patron yelled from the door as he entered the dark and small basement that served as their speakeasy. Dorothy was behind the bar as her husband had to deal with some issues in a new shipment, apparently the ‘bathtub’ gin he ordered had a horrible taste that was too bad for even ginger ale, Coca-Cola, sugar or even fruit juices to be able to hide. Her husband, James Lester, had the habit of purchasing the cheap stuff, he was the ‘anything to make a quick buck’ kind of guy, the one that was not afraid to cut corners. At one point he even purchased “Smoke” which was made of wood alcohol and ended up killing a few of their patrons. Fortunately the Morettis stepped in and threatened him that if he continued to use it then he would find himself in a dangerous and painful situation which was more than enough to make him stop.


“That was kind of them, I guess in some ways they care for the people…” This statement made Geraldine scoff at the young girl.


“The Morettis didn’t do it out of kindness, there were two very big reasons for it; one was that they made more profit if the drums bought their products even if some were more water than alcohol. The second was that without patrons there was no money. It was all about profit, to them killing the patrons was like burning money.”


“That makes more sense.”


In Dorothy’s opinion, good quality or bad, alcohol was far too bitter for her taste so she often added sugar, mint, lemon, fruit juices or other flavorings to make it sweeter. This could be due to her young age as she had barely turned eighteen but some of the women that began to frequent the place were having the same problem so Dorothy shared her solution which became very popular, her version of cocktails. The men were only interested when the alcohol quality was really bad. The current question was a way that the regulars used to ask if the alcohol was decent or worse than piss. She looked behind the bar where some bottles stood, she still had some of the good batch that didn’t have too much water so she shook her head. This excited the man who ran over followed by a few others that saw her response. Soon she was bombarded by orders but it didn’t overwhelm her like it did the first night she was left behind the bar. She remembered how she ran away sobbing at the more agitated and impatient patrons that yelled at her and called her names. James’ twelve year old daughter, who seemed to absolutely hate her, took over and flawlessly handled the situation.


“Such a useless waste of space.”


The girl was far too mature for her age and reminded Dorothy of Stella who she had feared and avoided at all cost while still at home. The girl was so serious and strict, Dorothy just wanted to make everything pretty and have fun. Her husband being much older than her didn’t really require or demand her attention besides a few rare times a month but even then he was gentle with her. The only thing he demanded was that she help out around the bar which she was more than happy to do. She got to meet a lot of new and interesting people, although she wished that the place was more like the drums that she has heard that were elegant and roaring party in grand nice rooms, with music and dancing. Dorothy has tried to make some changes and usually James lets her unless those changes required money, like hiring a band.


Soon she saw her husband's salt and pepper head peek through the back door carrying two crates, Dorothy pulled out the juice and Coca-Cola knowing that they would be needed. “Go and help clean tables and take orders, I will take over here.” James ordered her but Dorothy was happy to follow the order, she enjoyed being surrounded by the patrons. They all had so many interesting and wonderful stories that made her otherwise boring days entertaining. While Dorothy had no worries like her sisters, she still found the routine of her days tedious, it was always the same everyday. James was so boring and his children were a nuisance, none of them understood the meaning of fun. They were all stiff, strict and boring, while waiting tables around the place she heard all the gossip going around and it was the only way she could get some excitement.


“She is cheating on him while he’s at work and not with just one fella,”


“You sure?!”


“The other day I saw a woman enter her apartment!”


“Perhaps they were merely friends…”


“ A woman like that has no friends.”

Stories of elicit and scandalous affairs that would normally only be found in novels or heard on the radio. They were stories that kept her at the edge of her seat filled with intrigue, danger and adventure but even better she was not faced or dealt with any of the consequences. Unfortunately for her she did not get to experience the thrills and excitement either.


“I heard he ran away with some young thing, leaving his poor wife and children alone.”


“And the wife was pregnant as well!”


“Well, I heard that he left with none other than the wife’s younger sister.”


“No!?”


“Horsefeathers!”


“Truly?!”


Dorothy could not help but gasp and fall into the crowd of gossipers, forgetting her duties. She sat down taking a sip of someone else’s drink, the patrons said nothing as they were used to the girl’s behavior. Every once in a while James’ voice would yell and remind her of her duties and she would move on to another table where she would forget herself and get lost in the excitement once again. The process would repeat itself until the end of the night when they would close down everything and she would use the stories she heard that night to keep her going and fuel her dreams. In her dreams she was a famous starlet like Flo Lawrence, she would act all the stories out and people would adore her. She wore the most wonderful and elegant clothes, met the most interesting people and visited the most exotic places. It was the life she desperately wanted and the one that eluded her.


“See, while others would just like safety and calm, Dorothy wanted excitement although much like a child she did not know what she was truly wishing for. Dorothy just liked games, anything that was fun but had no consequences. When things become serious, dangerous or just no longer fun, the parent had to step in and take control making the bad things go away.”


“Well, everyone matures with age…”


“Everyone except Dorothy, that has never left her and I doubt it ever will. But there is something to be said about being herself and not letting life change her, not many could say that. Despite all the headaches she gives me at the end of the day I preferred her to the traitorous and ever changing Stella. The chameleon that didn’t know who she was and just adapted to the people and environment she found herself in. There was nothing real or genuine about her…” there was so much hate in Geraldine's voice that it was hard to believe that she was talking about one of her sisters.

“Is that not a little harsh? She is your sister after all,”


“Harsh? Perhaps it might seem like that now but one thing you have to understand is that Stella and I are fire and ice, forever bound to clash, eternal rivals that even if we wanted to could never be anything more than that.”


“Sounds poetic and tragic,”


“Does it?”


“Having to fight your own flesh and blood, never being able to be sisters…It’s heartbreaking.”


“How childish, that is the naivety that will stop you from being president,”


“Naivety? Why?”


“Because you assume that fire and ice ever wanted to get on. They live on separate sides of the scale. Stella and I might have been born sisters but blood does not truly make people family as much as we want to think so. Have you not heard about Cain and Abel, much like I did, Stella found and chose her own family, from that moment we ceased being sisters and we’re both perfectly fine with that.”

 

After her wedding Stella found herself at a standstill, her husband was disfigured and clearly had no interest in the whole situation. His family seemed to look down on her and as soon as they were married, she was completely ignored. At first, as she had expected the wedding was a grand affair with a lot of important people, the whole Roberts family seemed to accept her warmly and happily. There were many photographs taken of the new happy family. Stella had never taken a photograph so she had been curious and excited. She was sure that she had finally been rewarded by life and by her father for being such a good daughter and woman. Even though she had a hard time laying with her husband afterwards due to his disfigurement she was still happy, fortunately after the first night the man took pity on her and did not force her to fulfill her duties. He seemed to know that he had become a monster and he did not try to impose himself on others.


Stella had found out that to her surprise he was a year younger than her twenty-three years but he didn't seem it with his rugged and weary appearance which made him looked much older. They fortunately also slept on separate beds so Stella for the most part could ignore his tossing and turning in the middle of the night although the screams were a little harder to ignore. No one else in the house seemed to hear the screams and her husband stopped himself fairly quickly which meant she could go back to sleep although she felt embarrassed the morning after by the racket he caused.


Leonard found his new bride far too serious and uptight, she seemed to find it strange and unsettling when he tried to be polite and considerate. He had tried to pull the charm he once had if only for a moment but she didn’t seem to like it or find it appealing like most women. He could feel that she was disappointed and much like his mother, disgusted by him. He tried his very best to accommodate her, for he knew that marrying someone like him was a massive sacrifice for a young and beautiful girl, but nothing seemed to work. After his wife sneered in disgust on their wedding night and practically gagged all the way through, he decided that it was best to stop trying and just continue living their separate lives. He wanted to avoid the pain he felt from her disgust, he knew his condition but he was still human after all although the woman made him feel like he shouldn’t be.


Beside her husband, Stella felt that she had finally found her place in the clearly wealthy family until after the wedding when her mother-in-law began ordering her around. At first Stella had no issues with helping around the house but soon she realized that she wasn’t helping, she was actually doing the job herself. She was being treated like a servant instead of a lady of the house, her husband’s mother constantly sneered at her with an air of superiority that burned Stella’s blood. She rejoiced at the times the woman’s cooking would burn despite the older woman’s vigilant attention. If Stella’s hands were hotter and slightly red whenever that happened then no one had to know but her.


“Wait, Stella is an Elemental?!”


“I was wondering how long it would take you to figure it out. I practically spelled it out for you several times.”


“But since when?! She never showed signs…?”


“She did but Stella was very good at ignoring the things she felt would make her strange or give her extra hardship. Being an Elemental while not bad or illegal, at the time, was still getting a lot of scrutiny and bad attention, something she wanted to avoid.”


“So she was aware that she was an Elemental but she hid it?”


“At the time, I think a part of her knew but a great part tried to explain it away and ignored it. So subconsciously she knew but didn’t really want to accept it until she met her idol Thomas Alexander Roberts.” Geraldine sneered with mocking reverence that even in jest she could not keep for long.


By the time her first family dinner had arrived Stella was seriously disappointed with the Roberts family. The son was a monster, the mother was cruel and spiteful, the father was never there and when he was he was weak in the face of his wife, the younger children a boy and a girl were annoying but fortunately mostly out of the house with different tutors, it was not what she was expecting. She wasn’t even allowed to really join the dinner as she was made to serve everyone and refill cups “you live in my house for free, the least you can do is help out.” She was furious that her husband said nothing in her defense and even her father-in-law just looked apologetic but did or said nothing. She could not understand how these men could be so weak, they should be more like her father who ran the house with an iron fist and had the strength to discipline those that got out of line.


She spent most of her time observing the family and comparing their dynamic to her family. The first difference was that they actually sat and had dinner together, something she couldn’t remember ever doing with her family. It made her hate them a little more for being part of some club that her family never joined, the superiority poured from them like overflowing buckets. The head of the family wasn’t the father as she had expected but actually the grandfather.


At first the man didn’t really impress her, he seemed like those businessmen that thought they were strong because they had money but had no strength of character when it came down to it. But then she saw how easily the man kept the family under control, unlike her father he never had to raise his voice. Just one tone from the man had everyone straightening up and even stuttered as they spoke, Stella was in awe. Even her father wasn’t that impressive, Geraldine always gave him a hard time but she was sure that the younger girl wouldn’t be a match for Thomas Roberts.


The older man, like the rest of his family, ignored her but Stella had won her father’s approval so she knew that she could win his. She knew that if she had his approval her life and position in the family would change. Every family dinner she cooked dinner with gusto, making sure to make the older man’s favorite and that everything was perfect but the credit always went to her mother-in-law which infuriated Stella. When that did not work Stella tried to make conversation or include herself in the family discussions.


“Shouldn’t you be plating dessert?” But her efforts were dismissed by her mother-in-law who could see through her ruse.


“I completely agree back home…”


“As I was saying, the city is getting worse.” Or she was completely ignored and looked down on by everyone except her father-in-law and her husband but they already proved to be the weakest ones so she didn't care for their approval.


“What would you know about anything?” Or sneered at and made the target for everyone to shoot at.


Her husband was useless, the man just sat there playing with his food ignoring the world around him. Her father-in-law at least tried, responding to her questions until his father glared at him. But Stella was determined to earn a place with the family even if she had to kick her husband out of his as the man clearly did not appreciate what he had.


Family dinner at the Roberts home happened every week and it always happened in Ernest Roberts’ home, never in Thomas’ which Stella found disappointing. The older man always arrived promptly and impeccably dressed, his first question was always about work until dinner was served and then he asked about the family. Stella noticed that his questions often were more like tests, as if there was a right and a wrong answer and it was their duty to know the correct one.


“You must be so proud of your grandfather.” She declared to her husband one night, wanting to get information from the man.


“What?” The younger man seemed confused, she was not sure if it was by her speaking to him or by her question.


“Well, I mean he’s such an important man and still he’s working hard to be better and make the country better yet he makes time to have dinner with his family. It’s admirable.” Leonard noticed the almost dreamy look in the young woman’s eyes, he could feel the admiration pouring from her. He almost laughed for the first time since coming back home from the war. The hero worship was so clear that a blind man could have seen it. It wasn’t the hero worship that he found funny but the person his wife decided to hero worship. His grandfather was the worst person to admire and/or want to be like, to him it was the equivalent of hero worshiping the devil but he grew up with the man so perhaps for him it was different.


“Admirable is not the word I would use but it definitely starts with an A.” Leonard declared before turning his back on his wife and ending their conversation. Even if their marriage would never be a happy one, at least the woman had almost made him laugh when he thought it was impossible and even after she turned off the lights and fell asleep with an annoyed huff he couldn’t help snort, “Thomas Roberts, admirable? That’s a good one.”







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