I remembered the day I chose silence. The barbed tongues and insults hurled my way gave me no choice. Gave me the burden of bearing my family’s name. Gave me the iciness I then showed the world.
It was all his fault. All his fault.
Gritting my teeth, I curled my fingers into a fist and struck the wood of the table, rattling the memorial candles and tilting my great-great-great grandfather’s wall portrait. But Cole Darkwright just kept on smiling his smug grin, unaware of the damage he’d done to the house of Darkwright.
Unaware of the way he’d ruined my life.
“Mavis?” came the voice of my sister, Carmen.
I whirled around. Blowing the tips of my shaggy black hair out of my face, my twin was revealed to me. Her luscious, sable hair hung in ringlets that cascaded down her back, and her face was etched with concern. “Mavis, what’s wrong?”
I said nothing. Carmen’s gaze trailed past me and landed on the table memorial of the family patron, Cole Darkwright. Her eyes displayed the realization that dawned in her heart. “It is not your fault that our family name suffers socially.”
“I know,” I snarled. “It’s all his fault.” I jabbed a thumb at my great-great-great grandfather, who still smiled as though he’d won an award.
Carmen placed a delicate hand on the side of my face. “Don’t be bitter over things that are written in stones of the past, brother. Instead, try to mold and shape the clay of the future.” I leaned into her hand, and she continued. “There may come a day when the village of Ethu will accept us, but until we see the sunrise of that day, keep hope.”
Carmen was trying to comfort me, but her words did no such thing. “You just never have to think about inheriting the title as head of the Darkwright house, since you were born second,” I murmured.
Carmen’s jaw tightened, and she withdrew her hand. “If you won’t accept my help, then I won’t give it. If you’re going to be like that, then I’ll leave you be.” She spun around and stalked away.
A house divided cannot stand. That was what Father used to tell me and my sister every time we fought as children and youth. But we were still divided even if we did get along. Mother had left us five years after our birth, and she rested in the afterlife, “scowling at our social handicap,” as Father often put it.
The room began to spin, and I stumbled back, gripping the memorial table as stars flickered across my vision in waves. Thinking about Father, about the scorn our family received, about Mother, made me dizzy and ill. I needed to get outside.
Staggering out of the room and groping for the door, I heard pounding footsteps. Father.
“Mavis Darkwright! Are you inebriated?” came the sharp, loud voice of Tynam Darkwright, head of the Darkwright house. He gripped my shoulder and spun me around, forcing me to stare into his cold, blue eyes. His black hair near his temples were streaked with grey, and his greasy moustache had silver strokes amongst the thick hair.
My stomach twisted, and I mumbled that I needed fresh air.
“Answer me,” he insisted. “Have you been drinking?”
I hadn’t, but my temper flared. “So what if I have?“ I grumbled. “I’m twenty-three. I can do what I please.”
My father held my shoulders with a shaky grip, his teeth bared and his eyes wild. After a moment of tense silence, he released me with an air of defeat. “Then go and ‘do what you please.’ You apparently do not care for my opinion any longer.”
Without breaking our stare, I groped around for the doorknob and pushed outside. As I walked along the gravel path that led to the hub of Ethu Village, I cast a glance over my shoulder and saw my father drop to his knees, his shaky hands gripping the tunic above his heart, all the while mumbling, “Phanna, oh my sweet Phanna. Where has our son gone?”