A novel by Ksenia Anske, Draft 2
Excerpt from Chapter 6, German Breakfast
Bloom was a very large family, its legacy firmly rooted in
the gardening business. Naturally, most living Blooms were floral experts, cousins
and second cousins and third cousins to Lüdke
Blome’s direct descendant, Alfred Bloom. Him and his late wife Eugenia had
one child, Daniel Bloom, who in turn had also only one child. Lilith. That
meant one day Blooms’ mansion and its rose garden would belong to her. Lilith
froze, thunderstruck. Could this be what grandfather announced yesterday? The
thought never occurred to her until now, and it made her even more determined
to uncover his secrets. There was no way she’d consent to owning a deadly
garden that used people as a fertilizer.
Forgetting all about counting and lost in thought, Lilith pulled
out an unoccupied chair. Immediately, all people at the table turned to look, calling
out their good mornings, where as the day before hardly anyone noticed her. This
confirmed her guess. On top of it, Schlitzberger twins arrived and sat next to her.
“We heard you got lost yesterday…” Daphne said with a nasty
smile, stacking her plate with waffles.
“…in the rose garden.” Gwen added with a snigger, grabbing a
Daphne slapped her sister’s hand. “That’s mine! I saw it
first!” They proceeded bickering at each other in German.
Lilith gulped, desperately searching the table for Ed. He
wasn’t there. Disappointed, she turned to face the twins.
“Incidentally, one of my favorite pastimes is searching for
bones of dead people—” she said icily, “—you know, skulls and stuff. The best
specimen I cover in fluorescent paint and dangle at night in front of people’s
windows. It took me a while to find one yesterday. It’s a nice once, still has
all of its teeth intact. What room are you staying in, by the way?”
Daphne’s face lost color. “Mutter!” She squealed, pointing at Lilith and firing off a whining string
of German words.
Irma Schlitzberger, clad in a tight purple sweater no doubt
of Gabby Bloom’s handiwork, leaned over her plate to see better, same purse
next to her pudgy hand. Lilith wondered if she could snatch another peacock
feather from it.
“Tsk-Tsk, Daphne. It’s not nice to speak in German in front
of your friend, when your friend doesn’t understand a word of it. Am I right,
child?” Said Irma loudly. Other guests watched this exchange with interest.
Lilith’s face turned hot. “Excuse me. I thought I mentioned
it before. I’m not a child…” She began.
“Aber mutter, sie…”
Daphne interrupted her, throwing shrill accusations at her mother, which Irma
returned with scolding remarks. Meanwhile, Gwen stole the roll from her
sister’s plate and quickly stuffed it in her mouth.
“Hello.” Someone tugged at Lilith’s sleeve. She turned.
A boy around ten stood by her chair. He had a very smart
look about him, dark sleek hair parted on one side, eyes narrow and lips pursed.
He was dressed in a suit with shiny shoes, and he smelled like hair gel.
“Um… My name is Patrick. Patrick Rosenthal. It’s very nice
to meet you, cousin.” He stretched out his hand in a practiced movement, his
round face splitting into a practiced smile. Even his speech sounded practiced,
with very little accent. It was obvious his parents sent him.
“Und… Um… This is
my sister, Petra.” He pushed a little girl ahead of him, barely seven, her dark
hair gathered in a ponytail, her tanned arms and legs sticking out of a festive
red dress. She had an aura of sugary sweetness about her. It was the girl who demanded
more cake, Lilith remembered.
“Hallo!” She said
brightly. “My name is Petra Rosenthal. What is your name?” The girl grinned,
showing a missing tooth, and it was the first genuine smile Lilith saw since
her arrival in the mansion.
“Lilith Bloom.” Lilith said automatically, astounded at how
well both of them spoke English.
Petra suddenly pressed a piece of paper into Lilith’s hand.
“It’s from my cousin Ed. It’s a letter. I like letters.” She kept grinning. “Is
it a love letter? My cousin Ed—”
“Petra!” Her older brother said sternly. “He’s not our cousin, he’s step-cousin. We’re not even related. Mom told you not to talk—“
“Sabrina. Sabrina Rosenthal. Delightful to meet you.” A tall
dark-haired woman was shaking Lilith’s hand, and Lilith recognized with horror
the face of one of the heads, same angular jaw, same highly arched eyebrows.
“There she is, the lovely girl. You were hiding from us,
weren’t you? Norman. Norman Rosenthal. I happen to be your father’s only second cousin.” A round heavy-set
man, the grown-up version of Patrick, with the same smart look about him, was
shaking Lilith’s hand now. Lilith felt numb. His face belonged to other head,
same hair parted on one side, same narrow eyes. The woman and the man were,
indeed, a couple, and they strongly smelled like dentists.
Holding on to her chair for sanity, Lilith soon found
herself surrounded with more relatives who were eager to chat.
“Trude Brandt, young mädchen.”
Introduced herself the old lady, Lilith’s neighbor, suddenly sweet and
charming, her soap scent not as revolting.
“Hanna Haas, degree in botany.” A mousy looking woman with
on odor of soil, large teeth and even larger glasses pushed forward a
wheelchair. “My mother, Heidemarie Haas.”
Heidemarie resembled a dried out ghost sitting amidst
blankets, a whiff of decay around her, her eyes milky and blind. She promptly
seized Lilith with shaky hands, palpating her face and relaying something in
German to Hanna.
“My mother says you look just like your father, when he was
your age. My mother says—”
Ten guests total,
thought Lilith, tuning out. Wait… the
math doesn’t add up. Ed and the owners of two other heads are missing, but that
makes it fourteen guests, not twelve.
Hanna was asking something, as was Petra, and Patrick, and
Daphne. Their voices turned into a blur, smells mixed into a suffocating reek,
when the same horrible sigh reached Lilith’s ears. She not so much heard it as
she felt it, nearly jumping from freight. Nobody seemed to notice a thing. Her
heart thumping wild, Lilith began gorging up on food, eager to escape into the
garden to continue solving its mystery.