November 8th, 2004

Mask

The Claim





Aurora never doubted that Solidad had the temperament to kill her. His inexplicable moods contrasted with an amazing patience and a harsh realism. In the foyer he would be laughing and then suddenly, in the study, his face would drop and he would become bleak and terrible. His reasons for this were philosophical and practical. It would occur to him that his resolution between two warring families was flawed and the guilt of his mistake would torment him until fixed, or until another distraction, like the leaves dancing in his garden, would amuse him and lift the dreary mood from his mind.

Solidad had decided that if her family were to be without a protector, then he would do as he would with her, as any predator might someday do. He could not bear it, to see her dead by another, to never know how or when she was going to be killed. The uncertainty disturbed him beyond his patience with her cultural beliefs.

Her protector would come or – and Solidad waved his hand, meaning that her life rested on the whim of his mood, and the length of his tolerance, which was in a perpetual state of flux. Of course, and Aurora knew this, this had always been the case, he was just now making it a public knowledge between the two of them. The assumed covenant of non-aggression was broken, and the intimacy of murder loomed.

Aurora heard Corbetts voice invoking the rite of protection and then the creed of her people. Her created family was foolish beyond her understanding. She measured the sensation of each square inch of skin, and weighed the painful desire to rush down to where Solidad challenged Corbett for possession between the paralysis of her muscle that kept her leaning on the banister in the still before sobbing.

If Corbett died, her family, already bare, would find themselves without even the slightest cover. Savler would turn more fully to prostitution, and would eventually die from it. Someone or something would claim Ivy, and the fight over her possession might kill her, but even if it did not, the trail of blood that would follow her would scar her mind into madness.

Solidad was laughing, the broad confident laugh that betrayed nothing. He could be pleased or deadly, and Corbett could be bleeding to death or furious and whole.





There was a crash, a meaty thud and then a long silence. Solidad called her name, hypnotic and compelling. Aurora moved with helpless resignation till, on the first step on that trip downwards, to join Corbett, to die, the sense of her responsibility, not towards the inevitable, but to the remaining members of her chosen family took her feet back up, and ran her to a window, and to an unexpected escape.


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