She was dressed in amaranth.
The sky was cloaked in aubergine.
It had been the night when her fate was to be sealed in black ink and sweaty handshakes. She imagined it all in her head: the crowd of people in dark suits, a sea of expecting smiles of the friendly, kind men who will stop at nothing to tear her down. On their arms are women of words but no minds, women with some words and some thoughts, women with few words and plenty of questions, and a few women with no words at all, but certainly have a pot of dark schemes and diabolical intentions all on their own.
It is almost more pleasant to be around the horribly chatty women. They don’t seem to go beyond stories and opinionated outbursts. They don’t seem to be capable of anything else but speak–they might have dedicated their entire lifetime on gossip. And no, there just simply isn’t enough time to develop your talents when you have such an obligation to your neighbor to share with them the latest tidbit of pseudo-information from town.
But for the women who speak only in the language of bashful greetings and warm affirmations, for those that only the clinking of their jewelry and the clacking of their seven-inch stiletto heels on the hard floor could be heard, for those who were trained to not give away secrets–they are the ones who truly have something to keep.
She remembered these. Lessons from fathers are to be treasured.
She had been in the car during her contemplation. Her chauffeur, usually cheerful, with an almost fatherly face, a brotherly tone of voice and a tasteful skill for well-mannered conversation, looked onwards, drove along, and said nothing the entire time. His face was as grave as the deep bluish gray suit he had to wore that night. His usual youthfully optimistic ideas were dashed by the fact that he could do nothing to change the situation. He could no longer look at her, not even from the rear-view mirror. Not even a glimpse of the trailing of the saturated pink blossoms along her dress. He thought it too depressing a night for such a color.
He advised her once to wear something bright, but deep in color, like perhaps a hot pink like those of amaranth blossoms. “We all appreciate how mature you are and how responsible you have grown to be,” he said before, looking at her from the rear-view, in her gray suit-dress, which perfectly fit her eighteen-year-old structure. “But it is how you radiate in youthful beauty that you captivated us all.”
“Likewise, certainly.” She flashed him a grin and a nod.
“Perhaps. Thank you.” It took a few seconds. “Amaranth?”
“Their blossoms.” He looked back at her when he had parked the car. “That color. Something like it. It’d be pleasant to see you in such a shade.”
“Perhaps. Thank you.” Right before he left the car to open her door for her.
That was all he could remember. That was all he could think of. And though admittedly, he was right–she was lovely–his stomach churned at the very sight. He tried to fight back the thoughts of turning the car around. But they have already arrived. The jet black coat of the vehicle let on for the reflection of camera flashes, and all the lights from the venue. He pulled over.
She attempted to recollect everything she’s learned thus far. This might be the last time she would be able to.
He looked back at her. Please don’t do this. “You will be brilliant.”
“Perhaps.” It took her a few seconds. I can’t do this. Was there anything else she should say? Anything else she still could say? A few blinks escaped her eyes, and her gaze hurriedly traveled around the car, searching for words. Her thick eyelashes would hint of even the slightest movement. “Thank you.”
He tried to calmly reassure her with a smile. But her sight still seemed to be absent. “Goodbye,” a final word escaped her lips. He left the car, and on the other side, opened the door for her, presenting her to the public.
The lights shone upon her figure as she entered Casa Ricaforte,with all its ivory pillars overlooking her, as she walked through the garden path where some of her visitors had waited. They were served with champagne and brandy with apple slices in the glass, and hors d’oevres of different sorts. The women were talking, talking, talking, about her gown, her long, dark auburn hair, her skin, her situation. The maids were too busy serving to say anything–and they knew better than talk. They were quiet and efficient.
A tall, young gentleman in faded gray led her by the hand up to the back entrance, and down the grand staircase in the view of men in dark suits, and women with glistening jewelry. She met her future constituents with a pearl-embedded smile and with eyes of glassy molten amber. And for a moment, the sea of stares hushed, in admiration for her ivory complexion, complimented by the amaranth silk that ran down her sides and overflowed with a trailing of blossoms. The only people who did not take even a second to stand still in awe of her presence were the servers, who bowed their heads, avoided eye contact, and continued their work, walking around the tables, preparing the food and drink. But they made no sound. Along with the quietness of the crowd, they too did not speak. No words escaped their mouths. Their footsteps were too light to hear. And there was nothing, not even so much as a clink from the silverware.
She reached the bottom of the staircase.Then, like a drizzle of rain, as expected, whispers, smirks and odd looks were overpowered only by a thunder of applause.
They parted as she walked past, still with smiles and praises singing through the air like love songs sung by adulteresses and cheaters.
She spoke fluently in a language of smiles and greetings, and said nothing more. Certainly, the man in light gray spoke this language too. After all, he had been raised in the same manner.
She walked up an elevated platform, where a long table of dark cherry had been set up with two seats upholstered with dark red satin down at the middle, facing the audience. He pulled up the chair for her, and she sat down, guiding the amaranth trailing with her long, delicate fingers. To her right, he sat down. His eyes of jade glistened in the spotlight.
At a podium, stationed at the far right of the stage, their lawyer stood. “Tonight,” he announced. “We bequeath the Ricaforte heiress with such a great responsibility: the duty of maintaining all of the Ricaforte fortune, all estates, all businesses. It is my honor to present you to her tonight in place of her father.” His arm stretched out unto their direction. The man to her right looked at her; she nodded at the lawyer. An applause. “And with that, we now present her the deed, to this palace, and to many others, and to all the establishments she shall own, the entire fortune summing up to thirty billion dollars.”
Through the music of the orchestra, the gasps of amazement and other inquisitive voices could be heard. The women were talking. How could a woman handle such a responsibility on her own? Oh, she looks so much like Master Ricaforte. Is she not unmarried? Was she really the one named to inherit this entire thing? If only her brother had not died. There were no other possible heirs. The men were calculating, conjuring plans, how to get through to her, whose son should be best for her, and ridiculing how she could be able to handle this alone.
Once again, the waiters only made sounds when pouring the wine.
The lawyer walked over to their table, an entire stack of papers with him. She had signed them before, save for the final page, which was the main show of the night. The young man presented her a black pen in a silver white gold case. Ricaforte, it said on the pen. The only other markings on the pen were smudged fingerprints of those who once used it. “I’m sorry,” a whisper escaped under her breath. He nodded. She took the pen, and in the heat of flashing lights, signed the final sheet.
It was done.
And applause, once more. She stood up, bowed to her people, and smiled at them as she raised her head. She put her hand on the young man’s shoulder, nodding at him. He smiled and left her side.
She headed out to the ocean of congratulatory remarks, sharing handshakes and kisses on the cheek with all the people who will work for her and with her.
And long after the music has faded, the hall has been emptied out and all the lights have been dimmed down, she finally found herself brushing her long, auburn hair in front of a mirror in her bedroom, dressed in a cream nightgown. She paused, looking at herself in the mirror, observing the color of her eyes.
She stood up and wrapped herself in a jade, silken robe, and walked down the dark hallway until she found light streaming through the crack of a door left ajar. She entered the private study. And the only thing she saw left her in tears.
Seated was a man of ivory complexion, with auburn hair. In his left hand was a glass with a bitten slice of apple soaked in what remains of the brandy. His light gray suit lay on the desk. His jade eyes could no longer meet hers the same way they did before.
She was dressed in jade; the sky, still aubergine.