We stood there thunderstruck.
Vinicio led us to the living room. The delicate smell of roses and Welsh daffodils was everywhere. We could observe with extreme detail the fabric of the beige velvet sofas and the Canadian oak furniture that were placed throughout the whole room. My friend wanted to sit down but I glared at her intently for a second. She rapidly obeyed and stood there quietly. I was very obsessed with the etiquette behavior and protocol manners that I couldn’t stand an embarrassment in front of the richest man of the whole Guárico state.
The Llanero landowner walked past us and guided us to what it seemed another huge room. I could spot a huge stainless steel industrial kitchen. When we got to the room I stopped at the very entrance completely stunned and speechless. The room was definitely the hugest kitchen I have ever seen in my entire life: there were huge windows at both sides of the room. The windowpanes were Italian made and the shutters were made of oak wood. Obviously, the oaks were Canadian. I know this because I am an interior designer and carpenter. The tiles were Indian and the fabric of the chair cushions were Egyptian. The lamp that hanged at the very center of the immaculate oak wood ceiling was precious: it was made of pure Swarovski crystal. The larder was so huge that occupied the whole south wall of the kitchen room. My friend opened it without permission and I had to bite my tongue to not scold her. There were lots of cans and boxes full of Venezuelan food: Ovomaltinas, Maizoritos, San Joaquin Panelitas, Savoy Chocolates, Flips, Dulce de Leche boxes, and other stuff. As a high class woman, this profession helped me maintaining my status and therefore gave me a chance to experience, enjoy and see the most beautiful places of the whole country.
I was beginning to wonder if this man was single. There was no wife or woman in that place to be seen. Since we entered the manor and saw the gigantic garden and walked upon the glass pathway that went straight to the entrance of the manor I didn’t see or spot his wife anywhere. That was weird but I supposed his wife was busy or perhaps at work. But nobody works on Sunday unless she had a huge business to attend. There was no maid in the kitchen at that moment and that made me feel a little odd. I have visited manors before and I have never seen one without maids. Rich people have maids doing the chores for them, aren’t they?
Vinicio made us seat down on the pine wood armchairs that were place around a big marble island and he, in a couple of minutes, placed a huge plate of Venezuelan grapes, bananas, Chilean apples and gig yellow mangoes from San Carlos, Cojedes State. Lilian took her fork at once and despite kicking her left ankle to let her know her lack of manners I couldn’t help watching her stuffing herself with a bunch of grapes. Whatever. I delicately took my fork and began peeling my mango slowly.
After finishing our succulent meal, we resumed our tour and Vinicio headed us to another huge room. We walked past the living room and turned left. We past a beautiful stone archway, walked through a wide corridor and I instantly saw two huge crystal rolling doors at the very end. Our guest slid them open and we instantly saw what it looked like a study room. A gigantic three floor library caught my attention instantly. There were hundreds and hundreds of books at the four corners of the room. A huge pine table was placed at the very center and in the very center of the right wall there was an exquisite black marble chimney. There was firewood there which made me laugh since no one had a chimney in Guárico since it wasn’t the custom of the people here in Los Llanos area. I know this because I went to San Fernando de Apure, Calabozo, San Juan de Los Morros, Barinitas, Achaguas, Sabaneta, Barinas, and Valle de la Pascua and no mansion or house there ever needed a chimney like that to get warm.
I stood there motionless. This man was definitely single. I was beginning to conclude that due to the lack of house service. No maid, housekeeper or even a babysitter was present there. Babysitter! This man had no children! I could sense it! If he had no wife then not having children was a crystal clear answer. However, I didn’t believe for a second that this man lived here by himself. He was a man…I mean…he had needs. A rich man like him surely had at least rooms available for any female stranger he wanted to please. I mean…come on! He was not a monk.
After flicking through the pages of an interesting poetry book of Andres Bello, I grabbed Lilian’s left arm and continued walking this time to another corridor that led us to another archway. I could spot a pathway that definitely headed to a huge garden. When my eyes saw the splendid araguaney trees, mockingbirds and mamón trees I sighed heavily wondering how big that manor was.
We sat down in three rigid but precious pine wood stalls that were located on the very left of the garden. We drank lemonade and ate palmeritas with jalea de mango with great delight. I was having a wonderful time with my friend and I was beginning to make plans for another visit. This time, of course, I was going alone. I needed to dress in a certain way to impress this man and make him mine. If I had to act, I had to do it quickly.
After what it seemed hours, my future husband stood up and guided us to a stony pathway that lay before us on our right. Vinicio opened a small fence door and led us to the widest stable I have ever put my eyes upon: there were approximately fifteen horses that stared at us boringly. He helped us choosing our horses and we rapidly began riding forward to a huge space of land. I didn’t ride with him because I didn’t want to look like a cheap woman in front of Lilian. She shouldn’t know anything about my plan. Nothing.
I was an expert at riding horses and very soon I left them behind. It took me some minutes to realize I was far from them. I scolded myself for being adventurous and bad mannered. I turned round and began my way back marveling at the huge place: I enjoyed watching the high araguaney trees, the majestic samanes, the tiny but smart squirrels that wandered around, the small lake on my left and a very skinny girl running like mad with a huge chicken on her left hand…
I stared at her at once. She was definitely scared…she ran like a torpedo and her hands were burning. I could sense she was bearing the pain since she was barely holding the chicken…The girl began weeping slowly but she continued…
I rapidly whipped my horse and I began to ride towards her. The horse was fast but I was amazed by the incredible velocity of the little girl. However, I couldn’t catch her as I wanted since she got into a hole that was hidden behind a huge barn that stood proudly on a hill.
I decided to stop my horse and rapidly got down, tied the animal to the nearest tree I found and began walking towards the hill. The huge doors of the barn were locked up but when I went round it I saw the hole. It was wide open.
I felt the urgency to go away but something inside of me made me want to enter…I didn’t want to bother Julie and I needed to have a word with Vinicio about a tiny dirty girl stealing food in his own property…
I got inside and took me a while to finally find the entrance…there was an iron ladder placed there…I descended…
I stood there thunderstruck.
The stinking and disgusting smell of urine and vomit was everywhere. I could observe with extreme detail the damaged and destroyed fabric of a blue velvet sofa and a huge barrel full of spit alongside it. There were more than fifteen women there including the housekeeper, the maid, the babysitter, and his wife. All of them were dirty, pale, skinny and weak. Some of them were eating what it looked like a rancid piece of bread and a stinky and stick piece of white cheese. Ants and some worms were walking upon the feet of some women. His wife looked at me and shrugged boringly. The other women whispered to each other and continued working.
-¡Ah! ¡The second one this year! ¡Sorry for my daughter! ¡She haven’t eaten in a week! ¡You better hurry up! ¡He must be cooking an nice omelet for you!- said the woman who was his wife grabbing an axe -¡Hurry up and get to the study room now foolish girl! ¡You will get warm in a minute!-
I just turned round and rapidly got up the ladder. I was weeping angrily. I just wanted to take Lilian and get out of that manor.
And I knew the reason why he had a chimney.