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Lady Katia stood to the side of the ballroom, surrounded by a group of young men in neat, black tuxedos. No one could see that under the long red ball gown she wore, she was nervously tapping her feet.
“So Todd, are you going to the club tomorrow?” Todd nodded his head in response.
“Just for nine holes though.” Todd turned to Katia. “Do you golf, Katia?”
The man, George, who had asked Todd the question in the first place, responded for her before she had a chance to contemplate the risk to open her mouth. He interjected hastily, his words coming fast, as though he wished to prevent her from making the wrong decision.
“No, she doesn’t. She’d rather sit home and read.”
The group had a good laugh at this, while Katia lifted her champagne glass to her lips, taking a small sip; an excuse to avoid the necessity of making a response. Her feet resumed tapping.
They resumed chatting about things that seemed trivial to Katia. She stared longingly at the waltzing bodies adorned in various colored dresses and jewels across the room. As George talked emphatically about his latest trip to Machu Picchu Katia couldn’t help but feel malice as her eyes wandered back to him. She tried to hide her animosity behind a veil, so that the blue in her eyes revealed nothing, in fear that he might notice. But he never did, and it wasn’t because she could conceal her feelings easily, it was because her feelings didn’t matter to him. Only in these moments, when his attention was so far from her, did she feel even the slightest bit of courage rising in her. But she still did not speak.
Arnold was now telling his version of a story that George had apparently gotten wrong. As George listened intently, his eyes remaining on his friends, he handed Katia his empty glass, so that he could use his hands to enhance detail. The action went without words on either of their parts.
“The rocks were this big.” He used his newly freed hand to draw a rough estimate in the air. “Katia didn’t like it much.” He said scornfully.
Todd turned back to Katia, and, with genuine care and interest, asked “why not?”
Katia finally went to open her mouth, but George began abruptly before she could begin.
“Too many bugs for her taste. She doesn’t like ‘roughing it’.” Only after George turned back to his friends did she manage to reveal her quiet furor. Todd was still looking at her with gentle eyes, eyes that sympathized with her silence.
As George went on, moving on to bugs now, Katia handed the two glasses to an attendant then slipped her long white gloves off from her hands by way of pulling the finger, draping them over her arm.
She turned and walked away without saying anything to anyone, only glaring, now openly, at George. She heard George say ‘excuse me’ to his friends, accompanied by his thunderous footsteps from his long powerful strides. George caught up to her within a few of her quick heartbeats, grabbing her arm, and whirling her around.
“What’s wrong with you!?” George whispered angrily, like the hissing of a venomous snake.
“What…?” Katia whispered meekly, trying to defend herself.
“I told you to stand at my side and not speak. Yet you stood next to Todd and went to speak on more than one occasion.” He was seething with rage as he counted up all the points against her.
Out of fear, Katia said nothing. But he took it as a challenge. Katia grew terrified at what he might do. She wanted to yell back- argue that Todd had addressed her- but he would only yell back louder. She turned to run from the ballroom, her head down and away from George. He would have followed, but Arthur had grabbed his arm.
Standing in the foyer, she realized that George’s car would not arrive until one. Defeated, Katia stood in the dark foyer alone, trying to distract her eyes by looking at the ceiling so that her tears would not fall. She wrapped her arms around herself, her gloves dropped and forgotten in the ball room.
She heard soft footsteps drawing near. If she didn’t see Todd’s feet, she would’ve thought they floated, barely touching the ground. They weren’t in any way frightening, like George’s.
“Katia…” Todd’s voice echoed through the open hall.
She didn’t respond, in fear that one of the angels painted on the roof would carry the message to George.
“You need to get away from him. He’s not a good man.”
Katia whispered something inaudible.
“Katia, you can speak to me.”
She turned to face him, her face showing that she was attempting to form a sentence that summarized all of her emotions. George’s heavy steps began growing louder and louder, seemingly causing the marble beneath his feet to crumble inwards.
“Leave her, Todd. She’s practically mute anyway.” He had one hand in his pocket, and was waving her existence off with the other.
“Because you told her to act that way. You ordered her not to speak. I heard your ‘orders’ when you arrived.”
George’s anger flared again. “Stay out of my business Mulligan.” George then stepped closer to Todd, hoping to intimidate him.
Katia remained silent. She slowly backed away, as though she was falling.
“Katia! Stay where you are!” George’s scream made her jump and fall into place. Todd did back down from George. But not Katia. He moved in front of her as a shield.
“Enough.” He said desperately. “Let her go, George. She doesn’t love you. You scare her.” He didn’t want anything to come to violence, but he was willing to whip blunt and cruel words at George if he had to.
Katia wanted to join in, telling George that she hated it when he yelled and grabbed her. But she couldn’t manage the words, so se resorted to rubbing her bruised arms from when he’d grabbed her earlier.
George was done. He no longer wanted to listen. He turned for the door. “Katia, we’re going. Now.” His voice boomed through her ears, though it wasn’t a yell.
But she remained as still as stone, like a statue, going so far as to hold her breath inside. She was terrified, but forced herself to remain stalwart. She had Todd defending her now. George stood there waiting for her to take his arm but he saw in his eyes that he had no control. His fabricated world- his friends, his dignity, the title he only had when with Katia- were all slipping away. She fed off of this moment, her silence now a sign of strength. George’s eyes skewered and pierced, but Katia finally felt strong enough to match them. George’s face tensed angrily. He could only growl as he walked out the door with his heavy steps, leaving her with Todd.
She didn’t mention as he stormed away that the car wouldn’t be there until one.