Harlan led us all across the ballroom and into the dining room. Gleaming china and glistening jewels were mounted along the walls, bronze candlesticks stood on top of a strong oak table. and seven sets of ivory plates and polished silverware rested on the table. We all silently picked our spots at the table. Jacob sat directly across from me and Scarlett sat just beside me. Heavy silence weighed on the room as none of us could muster up the courage to say anything. I was expecting an entertaining evening with an old friend, but instead I was stuck in an awkward gathering among strangers.
Having had enough of the silence, James slammed his palm upon the table top and shouted at Harlan, "I've grown weary of being kept in the dark! Where is our host and why have we been brought here?" The doorbell sonorously rang through the halls of the mansion.
"Helga!" Harlan called out to the kitchen. An old, short, round woman entered through the kitchen's thin wooden door, undoubtedly the cook. "Please serve our guests' meals to them. I must fetch the door." Helga returned a slight bow to the butler and darted back into the kitchen. Harlan headed toward the front door, leaving the six guests all alone. We were all wondering who it could possibly be, but remained silent as Helga brought out our meals in pairs. On each plate was a juicy, simmering steak coupled with colorful vegetables and rice as white as a cloud. As a poor college student, the thought of a delicious meal would be irresistible, but the anxiety of being in a mansion with a group of strangers clouded my appetite.
The hallway door swung open and Harlan walked through with the mystery host directly behind him. Shiny, slick, jet black hair was matted on his head, he had a nose as pointed as a falcon's beak, and his suit was as dark as his hair. He looked way too polished for someone living in the heart of Kansas. My mind was screaming, telling me to sprint out of the mansion, but something inexplicable kept my body anchored to my chair, perhaps it was the fear of what would happen should I muster the courage to escape. The man sat down in his chair, but said nothing to any of the guests sitting with him. His eyes wandered around the room until they met mine. Ice covered my bones and my skin chilled. Fear gripped me like a chain and I couldn't breathe. That moment was the first in which I truly felt the fear of death crawl into my mind. It oozed through my brain like a toxic sludge and all the good in my life was blanketed in darkness.
Finally he spoke to us, "My name is Obasi Salvatore. Undoubtedly, you all would like to know why you're here." Even though he was right, none of us anything. "Those of you who received an invitation in the mail, you know exactly why you're here. An unfortunate circumstance in your life has led you to this mansion. That circumstance isn't something that was developed over time. It was a brief moment determined by one decision, but that decision has followed you like a shadow." I looked at Jacob, but he was blankly staring at the plate in front of him, loaded with food he had yet touched. Obasi continued, "Those of you who were invited by a friend, you are innocent and blind. You've come here expecting a pleasant party, a gathering to make acquaintances, but that is simply not the case. There is no way out of the mansion, I have the only key and all the windows are barred."
"You can't hold us as your prisoners! It's against the law!" James yelled, rising from his chair.
"Who among you is going to enforce the law? The only way that any of you are leaving is by my say so." James sunk down into his chair once more. Silence and dread followed that sentence. Just a few moments earlier I was acquainting myself with friendly strangers, and then I just trying to think of any way to get out of the horrid mansion. Scarlett's date, Zach, shyly raised his hand, trying to nab Obasi's attention. Obasi nodded at him.
"I was invited by a friend, so I would like to know exactly why I was dragged into this."
"Of course," Obasi said as he rose from his chair and started to walk around the table. "Everyone who was invited by a friend has somewhat of a close relationship with said friend, or at least you did in the past. You probably know a lot about this person, but I know something about each of them that you don't, something that they've been too ashamed to tell anyone. Tonight, you will all be exposed."
"Why are you doing this?" I asked involuntarily.
"You'll see soon enough," Obasi responded with a sinister voice. After a moment of intense silence, he continued, "I think I've said enough. I'll be waiting in the study. Once you've all finished your meals, come join me and we'll discuss the information that I have." Obasi exited through the door and left us to ponder over what he had just said. Anger brewed inside of me, anger at Jacob for bringing me to this 'party'. I turned my gaze toward Jacob, but he didn't dare look at me. He knew what he had done, he knew he had put my life in danger.