The rest of the week was interesting. We all had dinner together, every night, in absolute silence. Every other meal, we were allowed to eat separately or at different times, and we were allowed to talk. Dinner, on the other hand, was different. It was special, in some way.
Rilion had started being nicer to me, after the second day. My guess was that Raffaello was on a drug of some sort; an energy supplement of some kind. James, on the other hand, wasn't any less stony than before. Fiske was nice, and the first two I had met gradually became nicer to him, as the week went on. It was fun, to spend time with my mom and just relax like this. We had gone to get our clothes and other belongings from our hotel soon after Raffaello had introduced himself to us.
Now, about the rose garden; I hadn't managed to go through it yet, because Raffaello was busy doing something in his side room, which was basically a meeting room designated for him. I swear, every other room in the house was a meeting room of some sort! But, all three of the brothers had a few of them sealed off for just their use – most of which were on the second floor, but the one Raffaello was using at the time had been on the third. I didn't know what he was doing, because I respected his privacy, but really wanted to ask. But, just like the good song says, you can't always get what you want.
I tried asking Fiske to take me, but he wouldn't. He said it was Rilion's place to, and that I would see it when the green-eyed brat felt like taking me. Well, that's my interpretation of it, at least. Fiske always seemed to be more respectful of and around Rilion than he was of anyone else, including James. It made me wonder if Ri was a mad-ax murderer or something, and his family was just so rich that they could pay off the cops, and they buried all of his victims in the very center of the garden, where there would be a circle of tombstones marked with only roman numerals on them, to remember which order they had been killed in. I could write a book about it, if I weren't too lazy. I thought I might, if I ever became a housewife.
James never spoke. I wondered if he was a mute, or an anti-social freak, or both. Whatever it was, I hated the way he would be relaxed (or, at least, the most not-angry he ever got) until I walked in, and then would instantly go stiff when he saw me. I couldn't get over the way he didn't seem to mind my mom too much, but wouldn't stop throwing daggers at me with his eyes. It seemed like he was trying to glare me to death.
Rilion had started smiling around me, but it was ridiculously forced, as though he only did it to make me feel better. I thought he might just be bad around women, until I walked down a new (to me) hallway one night. Each side was lined with portraits of couples, and I soon caught on that it was the Donatello family tree. I decided to do some snooping, and finally found the one labeled 'Arsenio and Velda Donatello.' Arsenio had been written with silver writing, which I had deduced was the marker of the one who carried the bloodline with them. Once or twice, a woman's name had been silver, but it had been the name of Donatello to carry into the next generation. I looked at the picture of Rilion's father and mother, and swore I was looking into a mirror, for a moment.
Velda looked just like me. We had the same curly blonde hair that had every shade from darkest gold to lightest white in it, and the same blue eyes that looked like the sea on a peaceful day, and the same complexion, which was so pale it was hard to find makeup for. We even had the same freckles speckled across our cheeks. I was scared, for a moment, and realized why the two of the brothers had been so awkward around me. They saw their dead mother, every time they looked at me. In the portrait, she even looked like she was close to my age.
She had a small, delicate smile playing on her lips, and a strong, noble look in the straightness of her back. She looked like she could take on the world, and dared it to try and hold her down. She looked determined, as though her entire life was ahead of her, and she wanted to make the best of it. She looked gentle, too. I felt like she was the kind of mother who would kiss your scrapes and cuts a thousand times in one day, even if they weren't really there. She looked honorable, dignified, and respectable. She looked like the ideal woman, and in that regard, I wasn't anything like her. I wasn't even the dirt beneath her heel.
I heard a noise to my left, and turned to see Rilion standing there. He was obviously taken aback by my presence in the hall, much less in front of his parents' picture. He came over to me, anyways, though.
"She was beautiful," I said to him.
"She was a lot like you," he replied.
"She can't have been; I'm nowhere near as pretty, and I couldn't pose like that for the entire time it took someone to paint it."
"You are arrogant, brash, stubborn, and conceited. You are depressed each and every day, and yet you smile often and laugh at anything and everything even remotely humorous. You make any room ten times brighter, just because you walk into it. You're so pale, you practically glow in the dark. You could be my mother's incarnate. If she ever had a daughter, I know she would have wanted you."
Then he turned and left. I was speechless. I wasn't sure how to take what he had just said- should I be happy? Sad? Worried? I was just confused. Should I have argued with him, and told him not to call his dead mother conceited? Was I really depressed enough that complete strangers could tell?
Had he just called me beautiful?
My heart began to race at the thought of it, and I hated myself for reacting to it. Plenty of people had called me beautiful before. Plenty of them had been absolute strangers. Some of them had been women, and some hadn't known a lick of English. That's just America, though. I tried to remember that the stereotypical Italian man would have already called me beautiful at least three thousand times, and bella another thirteen more. Thereto, him taking a whole five days to vaguely compliment me was no big deal. So, I shouldn't care. If he had called me beautiful, it was only because his mother had been so lovely. Which brought me to the question; when had she died? Had it been recent? How old had he been? If she died on the same day as Fiske's mother did, then how old had Fiske been? How had they died?
And, if I spent so long looking at the portrait, then why couldn't I remember Arsenio's face, for the life of me? But, I was back in my room, sitting by my window, looking out over the field of roses below me. Their fathers would be returning from Sweden in two days. I would probably be leaving with my mother, soon after that happened. But, until then, I had to make sure she didn't find the picture of Velda. She wouldn't take it too well, I knew, and I still had some snooping around I wanted to do.