The Dining Hall:
The evening meal was always served in the massive dining hall just off of the entrance corridor. Mealtime had been announced by the deep rich tones of a giant grandfather clock that stood against the wall beside the double doors. The sound of it blended with the feel of the grandeur the entire Manor possessed.
Maybe it was the loss of memory that helped her adjust so quickly to these new surroundings, but somehow it all seemed so welcoming to her. She suddenly felt as if this lifestyle were inbred in her soul. With the large spacious rooms and plentiful faculty she felt more alive and excited than she ever had at Tyler Hall.
Even with all the love and affection Isabel had showered on her, Kyra had never felt this sense of welcome. Everyone seemed to have a place in this manor. The servants all had their duties to perform, yet they were quick to assist anyone who looked lost.
Perhaps it was because of Sherman's absence that she felt so at ease here. He had never wanted her presence in his home. In fact, he made sure to tell her on almost every occasion that she was in the way. No one here at Damon Manor made her feel that way. Well, there was the mysterious Caleb Damon... His behavior had frightened her terribly. But, after his attempt to explain himself in her bedroom, she did not get the feeling that he despised her being in his home.
It wasn't just the rich and expensive surroundings of this place that made her feel so at home in Damon Manor. Sparkling jewels and brightly colored fabrics had never been things that caught her notice. And, it wasn't the luxurious china or paintings that held her attention now. It was simply the whole atmosphere. The space and organization was remarkable. This was what she felt more accustomed to. It helped create a sense of normalcy. It created an air of... freedom. To feel free and alive was what she had yearned for, but never experienced during the last ten years.
At Tyler Hall, there had never been any freedom. Everyone seemed to watch her movements. She knew there was always a servant keeping a careful eye on her, reporting everything she did to Sherman. She had felt so uneasy at times, but it had simply been a fact of her existence.
In this house she felt welcome, not guarded. It was wonderful!
Her cheery mood was spoiled only as she stood in the doorway of the dining hall. For a moment she watched as Jacob guided Serena past her into the dining hall.
Sadly, she knew it would be forbidden for her to eat with the guests, just as it had been at Tyler Hall. That thought slowly deflated her uplifted mood. Oh how she longed to become a part of someone's family. She yearned to feel that fulfilling sense of comfort that she knew a family provided. At this moment, she was once again thrown into the reality of her existence. She was not really a part of this family. That was just a dream. From years of experience, she knew it was a fruitless dream. And, such dreams only brought about disappointment.
Knowing this, she tried to concentrate on happier things. She watched Serena smile as she talked with Jacob. He was holding out a chair for her near the end of one enormous table. Somehow, her friend seemed lighter in spirit this evening. It was nice to see this side of Serena coming to life again. Since Isabel's death, Serena had been so depressed. A frown often covered her face. Tonight she had a wide grin as she talked with her escort. Allowing herself a moment of wonder, Kyra mused that she had never seen Serena smile quite so brightly when Andrew was around.
Kyra's mind soon returned to her momentary dilemma. Oh, how she would love to eat at the household table just once. It would be so nice to be invited in, to eat like an actual member of a family. But, no' She would eat in the kitchen as always. Sherman had expressly forbidden her that luxury from the start. She could expect no different from Lord Damon, especially after incensing him so badly today. He would never want her presence to spoil his appetite.
Neither Serena nor Jacob noticed her absence. It was very disappointing. She hadn't expected them to, but the rejection hurt as it always did.
Her eyes swept the room as she looked to see if Caleb had arrived yet. One glance told her he hadn't. He probably made a ridiculously grand entrance after everyone was finally seated. Sherman did that at every meal.
The room was only half full, so she expected there would be a long wait before he arrived. That meant there would be an even longer wait before she was allowed to eat.
From behind, a hand lightly touched her on the shoulder. Having heard no one approach, she jumped at the feel of it, startled out of her reverent thoughts. It was a moment before she could slow her racing heart, and a deep voice was already speaking before she managed to turn and look.
"Sorry if I frightened you, again," his voice mocked lightly. She turned around, knowing the voice was Caleb's. He was early. A curious look showed on his face, as though he was confused about something. "Pardon me, but I noticed that you have been standing in this doorway for quite some time. Are you awaiting someone's arrival?" When she shook her head, he asked, "Do you plan to eat out here then?"
Her brow furled in confusion and again she shook her head in answer. Pointing towards the kitchen door that sat at the far right corner of the room, she gestured her head towards it.
Caleb thought her movements over. It was obvious he did not understand what she meant. Looking at the kitchen door, he remarked, "That's the kitchen."
Realizing he was pointing out the absurd, she nodded, bowing her head in disappointment. It was likely that he might reprimand her for peeking in at his guests. Not wanting to be embarrassed in front of the others, she demurely folded her hands and passed him, heading towards the kitchen.
"Wait," he called out.
Kyra froze on the spot. She berated herself for pulling such a stunt. She knew better than to avoid such a confrontation with the head of the house. It would only anger him further if he wasn't allowed to vent his grievance. When would she ever learn, she wondered. She turned around, hiding her emotions as she cast her eyes to the floor. Sherman had always enjoyed watching her squirm. She refused to look up to see the laughter in everyone's eyes, if anyone was even watching.
Seeing the hurt expression she was bravely trying to hide, Caleb felt slightly at a loss. Frowning at her curious reaction, he stepped closer, lowering his voice so his guests could not hear him. His mind drew up blank as he tried to understand the problem. Unable to see the reason for her dismay, he finally gave up trying. Instead, he decided to leave it a mystery.
Shrugging as he let out a confused sigh, he said, "Why don't you seat yourself for dinner."
Twiddling her fingers nervously, Kyra wondered what gods she would have to thank if he meant to let her get away without a tirade. She glanced up for a second to see if he looked serious. Seeing his frown, she looked away and nodded her thanks for his generosity. She lifted her skirts and turned back to head toward the kitchen.
Growling in frustration, Caleb called out to her again. His hands fisted at his sides as he tempered his anger. For a moment he considered calling Serena over, but he rejected the idea almost immediately. He knew there would soon come a time when he would be granted no translator to speak with this woman. It was best to try understanding her without the aid of Serena if he could.
Kyra's eyes closed again as she stopped walking. What game was this? Stay, go, stay, go... It was cruel of him to treat her like this within earshot of the others. Unable to hide her growing depression this time, she turned around slowly. Her eyes glanced past him to the tables in the room. She couldn't help but see if the others were laughing yet. Thankfully, everyone seemed unaware of them. No one was watching.
Feeling a slight bit of relief, she again cast her eyes to the floor. So, this place would be no different from Tyler Hall, she thought dismally. This time she would await his remarks. She refused to let him make a fool of her again.
"What is the problem here," Caleb asked, only realizing a second later that she couldn't answer him. His frustration was deepening. Just one more second and he was going to shout Serena's name, he knew it. The thought that he was unable to speak with Kyra ate at him.
He glanced around the room, trying to find some sort of explanation for what was driving her to behave so strangely. His eyes moved from her pouting face, to the kitchen door. Why was she so determined to go into the kitchen, he wondered. Trying a vain attempt at humor, he remarked, "Do you intend to eat in the kitchen?"
Growing angrier for his teasing, she knew it would be best to just get the humiliation over with. Bitter about having to answer him, she nodded slightly.
A full minute passed as Caleb drew up short. He hadn't expected her to answer so seriously. He'd expected some humorous reaction, maybe an embarrassed laugh or outraged denial, not a reluctant nod. She was serious!
Stepping a bit closer in case his eyes had fooled him, he asked, "Are you telling me that you think to eat in the kitchen?"
"That is where the servants eat," he stated unnecessarily.
Gritting her teeth for his inane sense of humor, she shrugged carelessly and continued to stare at the floor. Was he comparing her to his servants as some sort of joke?
"Is that where you normally eat?" The question was asked with amusement, though he knew she couldn't see his raised eyebrow. He was certain she had to be jesting.
She nodded again, her face reddening with each word he spoke.
Impossible, he thought. If she didn't look so serious, he would have laughed. The set of her brow showed her anger over his question. He realized she was telling him the truth. Sherman Tyler made this girl eat with his servants?
Taken aback, anger swelled in his chest and he announced, "Not tonight, you aren't. You are not a servant in this house. You will eat with the rest of us."
As he spoke, he took hold of her arm to guide her into the room. Kyra refused to believe it as he led her to the enormous table. He asked another guest to please push down as he seated her beside his own chair at the head of the table.
Kyra was shocked by the spectacle he had just made.This was all a joke! He was teasing her! She could only imagine that he would let her sit, only to cruelly discharge her from the room when the meal was served. After all, he had seated her ahead of Serena!
Caleb stood looking down at her as she adjusted herself in the seat uncomfortably. He could see the doubt in her movements. She was extremely uncertain at this moment, and he felt a need to assure her of her place. With a disgusted sigh, he finally seated himself. He angrily eyed his brother who was deeply embroiled in a conversation with Serena.
"Jacob," he interrupted rather irritably.
Jacob glanced up from his chat, unaware of the situation. Mildly annoyed by the interruption, he asked, "What?"
"I thought I asked you to make sure our guests were made to feel comfortable here."
He saw a reprimand coming and was quick to defend himself. "They seem well enough to me." He pointed to Serena and Kyra who both sat happily at the table.
"Then why is it I just had to convince Kyra that we weren't going to force her to eat in the kitchen?" His voice fairly dripped with sarcasm.
Jacob looked aghast and he stuttered as he tried to form a reasonable explanation. "I-I swear Caleb, I had nothing to do with that. I hadn't even noticed she was missing... Uh, that is, I was talking with Serena and forgot'" He was digging a deeper grave with every word he spoke.
Serena broke into the conversation, trying to help him. "Caleb, forgive me, but I suppose this is all my fault."
"And, why is that?" Caleb adjusted his position as he listened in disbelief. Amazingly, this girl was trying to cover for his brother.
"Well," she began, "I'm afraid I didn't explain to Kyra that she would be allowed to eat at the dining table while she's here. I knew that, but of course, she was simply so used to eating in the kitchen'"
"Wait," Caleb interrupted. "Are you saying that she does eat with the servants at Tyler Hall?"
"Of course," she replied honestly.
"Why?" Caleb asked mildly.
Serena and Kyra both looked stumped. "I don't know why," she finally answered. "Father simply didn't allow her to eat with us."
"And, it was always this way," he asked.
Both women nodded in unison.
Kyra was stunned. Was Caleb honestly going to let her stay? Counting her blessings, she prayed it was true. She kept her hands tightly clasped together in her lap. She refused to touch anything on the table until the meal was underway. She was afraid of breaking something.
Caleb watched Kyra's nervous movements for a time as she became accustomed to eating formally. Servants offered her servings of different foods, most of which she accepted gratefully with a nod. His own meal was prepared without his notice. In a moment of silence, Caleb wondered what kind of life Kyra had been subjected to at Tyler Hall.
In Sherman's recent letters, he had spoken of a quiet girl who caused no trouble. He built her up as a treasured family member who needed new surroundings while she grew into womanhood. Caleb had believed Sherman meant she was simply in sheltered surroundings, too shy to socialize. That had obviously been untrue. Sherman most definitely left quite a few details out of his letters. Now Caleb had to wonder why.
Dinner was a relatively quiet affair. Most people were content to eat and drink, thinking their own thoughts, as course after course was served. It was only when the desserts were served that conversation began erupting in the silence.
Caleb and Jacob discussed the day's problems while Serena spoke with one of the more prominent wives at the Manor. Kyra simply sat and listened to their conversations with idle curiosity.
It was a difficult task to eat and talk with her hands at the same time, so she ate her own fare silently unnoticed.
As her curiosity for their talk ebbed, Kyra's mind began to wander. Her thoughts strayed to the events of the day, or more specifically, Caleb's puzzling reaction to her presence in his garden. He'd acted as though she committed a mortal sin by her actions. True, he had apologized for his anger, but she still wondered why he'd become so violent.
Unconsciously, she raised a hand to her mouth and lightly ran her forefinger over her lip. It no longer hurt so much and the swelling had all but disappeared. If this were Caleb's normal method of dealing with anger, she would surely remember to keep her temper around him. He seemed kind enough right now, but she had seen the darkness within him. It wasn't a transformation she cared to witness again.
The meal seemed to end slowly. One-by-one, people began to adjourn to their quarters. Some seemed content to sit around and chat with friends even after the dishes were cleared away, but for Caleb the meal wouldn't end quickly enough.
He hadn't been oblivious to Kyra's gesture as she eyed him silently. For the second time, he found himself uncomfortable in her presence. He knew exactly what she was thinking and it was unnerving. It was unnerving because he wasn't a wild animal that needed to be carefully watched. He knew she was still wary of him, and there was no need to be. Granted, he had given her reason to watch her step around him, but she needn't check every movement around him. He despised the idea of a woman being so nervous in his company.
Kyra sat idly, wondering if she should excuse herself now or wait for Serena. Serena didn't even seem to remember Kyra was there. She and Jacob were once again deep in conversation. Kyra had almost gathered up the courage to excuse herself when Caleb spoke up.
"Lady Tyler," he addressed Serena. She immediately ceased her chatter and turned to give him her full attention. When he was sure she was listening, he said, "I have a need to speak with Kyra about her new position as my charge. As it seems you are the only one who knows her hand language, it will be necessary to have you join us in case I need a translation of her response." Or, in case I need a distraction from her eyes, he added thoughtfully.
"Of course," Serena replied. She knew her agreement was not required, because Caleb never requested anything. He demanded things. Still, out of respect to him, she'd answered.
"Then, if you are finished with dinner, perhaps we could adjourn to the sitting room." Without waiting for a response, Caleb stood and began walking toward the hallway. He didn't seem to care if they followed or not.
Kyra glanced at Serena to see if they should follow him. Her answer came as Serena hastily arose to her feet. She appeared extremely annoyed as she turned to bid Jacob farewell.
Jacob looked upset as well. He attempted to cover the look with softer words. "Would you care to join me in the gaming room later this eve," he asked.
She eyed him curiously and shrugged, "I suppose I could use a moment of relaxation when I am done with this ordeal." She smiled shyly. "Will you meet me in front of the sitting room?"
Jacob nodded and gestured towards the entranceway. "You'd best go," he warned.
Serena quietly turned and followed Caleb's footsteps out the door. Kyra noticed Serena was intentionally slighting her. The way she breezed out of the room without a word told her she was angry. She almost wished a word could relieve her friend from this chore. Knowing there was no hope for it, she soon dogged Serena's heels down the hall.
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