“I expect you to be here promptly for dinner every night,” Matron crackled, from her seat.
Edmund jumped, dropping his spoon into the probably potato soup. He stared at her, amazed, as she wiped her mouth on her sleeve without even looking at him. “Seven on the clock every day.” She licked her lips noisily as she turned her gaze to Edmund’s. “Some of my cousins are coming tomorrow. Six of them. Going to spend the season here, they said. I expect they’ll want to meet you.”
And with that, she stood up from her chair and left the table, walking steadily towards the door.
Edmund watched her leave as Ung appeared from nowhere, whisking her bowl and utensils away like magic.
The quivering terror that had filled Edmund’s body surged again with the realization that Matron hadn’t forgotten he was there. They had to have been sitting in silence for ten minutes at least without speaking a word. She hadn’t heard him, spoke to him, or even looked at him, and yet she still knew he was in the room.
It was a new and terrifying sensation, to be noticed. Perhaps she’d never forget about him? He wouldn’t doubt it, with those sharp and piercing eyes.
Just before her hand hit the doorknob, Edmund felt the question he had been yearning to ask since they had first entered the carriage boil up inside him. Before he could stop his mouth, his lips began to move, fueled by the terror of the unknown and the need to know something for certain.
“Why did you adopt me?” he heard himself ask. As soon as the words echoed back to his ears, he felt his heart clench and his stomach drop like a stone into a well. His shoulders followed as he reflexively sank into his chair. Matron slowly turned, her long sharp nose pointing directly between his eyes.
“At the moment, you’re my heir,” she said, her voice low and menacing. “You will remain so until I don’t need you any more.” She paused, and something like a sneer rippled across her lip. “Apart from that, I don’t give a single damn what you do.”
With a loud rattle, she forced open the door and vanished into the hallway. Edmund began to breathe again, his stomach returning to its proper place as he stared after his leaving parent.
She didn’t care about what he did, but hadn’t forgotten he was there. It was a sharp contrast from Mrs. Mapleberry, who cared a great deal about Edmund’s behavior, but could never seem to notice him in the room.
He didn’t quite know what he should think about that. He didn’t know what to think about having supper in such a large room alone with his new mother, either. He had never eaten a meal with less then eighteen children at least, let alone with someone so much older than himself. He ate the rest of his probably potato soup alone, with the clinking of his spoon and the hissing of the large gaslights in the chandeliers providing the only sound.