“Not at all. It is a pleasure to have you with us tonight.”

“Thanks. When’s dinner?”

“We break bread very soon. Clara will come for you.”

He turned and walked away and Olivia pulled on her jeans that were tighter than she remembered and waited for Clara. To pass the time, she went through some of her things, dreading the day when she would have to either store them or sell them. When Clara came to her, she was surprised to see Olivia wearing jeans so tight they outlined her crotch and it was clear that she was not wearing a bra. Clara looked down at the floor. I must speak to this young woman about her attire.

“I’m starving. What’s for dinner?”

“Dana has made a delicious vegetable stew and freshly baked bread.”

“Yum. I can’t wait to sink my teeth into a thick piece of meat.”

“My dear, there is no meat in the stew. We rarely eat meat. We do not think it right that an animal must die so that we may live.”

Olivia said nothing. When she entered the dining room, mats had been placed in a circle and several men sat on one end, with the women seated at the opposite end. The men wore black trousers and cream colored shirts that were oversized and laced up the front. Olivia thought they looked a bit like hippies from days long past. They talked amongst themselves while the women served them. A bowl of vegetable stew and a big slice of bread were placed in front of each man along with a glass of milk that was as fresh as milk can be, with thick cream at the top. The women then served themselves, with Clara setting a bowl and slice of bread in front of Olivia. As was customary, the last person Clara served was herself. Olivia was about to take a big bite of the warm, fresh bread when Clara stopped her. “We must wait for Adal,” she admonished.

When Adal entered the room, all talking ceased and the women bowed their heads. Olivia stared at the floor but didn’t close her eyes. Adal said a prayer of some kind that Olivia did not understand. It was in Latin, she presumed, or some language that was foreign to her. Her head was bowed, but her eyes were hungrily focused on the steam coming off the vegetables in front of her. She hadn’t eaten since breakfast, and breakfast had been nothing more than a complimentary bagel at the hotel. When the prayer ended with Adal asking that the women of the chosen ones be blessed with children, Olivia stifled a laugh. Children in this mixed up place? He has got to be kidding. Clara whispered to her that no one took a bite until Adal’s spoon met his lips with nourishment.


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