The Manor House Ch. 05byvelvetpie©
Rob didn't pick her up at the hospital. Instead, a scary-looking man that reminded her of a crazed version of Jeremiah Johnson strode into her room and took a long look around before he turned his almost pupil-less eyes onto her. Shandi cowered in the bed, her mouth hanging open and prepared to scream in case he planned on assaulting her.
"I look rough but I won't hurt you." The cultured sound of his voice caught her totally off-guard and he gave her a little bow, a smile mixed with sneer on his bearded face. "I'm Milo."
"I'm Shandi. Are you British?"
"Scottish, with a bit of Welsh blood on me grandmother's side." He smiled. "Thanks for noticing."
"Your accent's very distinctive."
"Yeah, yeah. I haven't liked it much since that bastard, Billy Connolly got famous. Everywhere I went, people were asking me if I was him."
"You don't look like him."
"No?" He strode over to the mirror and gazed at his weathered features, making faces that had Shandi laughing hysterically. "I thought I was sexy."
"You are, Milo."
"You think so?"
Shandi snorted. "No, but I expect that your mother does!"
They shared a hearty laugh for a long moment, then Milo clapped a hand on her shoulder, his eyes still bright with merriment. "It's nice to meet a gal that has a sense of humor, considering." Shandi nodded, her smile fading. "Are you ready to go?"
"I guess so."
She sighed, swinging her legs out of the bed and heading toward the bathroom to change into her clothes. "No."
"Because it was my fault, Milo. It was my fault that Donnie got mad and ... "
"Was it your fault that he broke your wrist?"
Milo's question made her pause in buttoning her shirt. "No."
"No one ever has the right to put their hands on you in a violent manner, Shandi. You'll learn that at the House." Milo strode over when she opened the door and roughly tucked her shirt into her pants, straightening her collar and making sure that the cuff was neatly folded over her cast. "And the important thing is that you won't be learning alone." He noted her shy smile of understanding and watched her as she glanced around the hospital room one last time. "Time to go, Shandi."
* * * * *
The road trip was long but Shandi slept through most of it. She hadn't been sleeping well in the hospital, especially when Rob had brought her news of Donnie's release. She tried to act as if she wasn't scared out of her gourd but her shaking hands gave her away, causing Rob to give her an extra long embrace when she'd left for the day. Now away from the hospital and in a safe environment, she courted sleep as if she was a desperate lover, slipping into its comforting arms as soon as they headed onto the highway.
"Shandi. Shandi, we're here." Milo's gentle shake brought Shandi hurtling back to reality with a scream muffled in her throat. He gave her warm smile and a light squeeze on the knee. "I thought you'd like to see the entrance. Always brightens up my day."
She sat up, rubbing the sleep from her eyes and wiping the drool from her mouth, hoping that Milo hadn't seen that last bit. He grinned and wheeled the sedan into the driveway, dirt clouds arising behind them. The entryway to The Manor House was indeed impressive. Huge, spreading oaks lined the dirt road and rings of impatiens and daisies surrounded each thick trunk. A couple of horses gamboled in the grassy pasture and butterflies flitted about them.
"This is like a fairy tale."
"Told ya." Milo snickered, beaming like a kid on Christmas Day. "It took us a long time and a lot of money to get it just right but Rob was very specific on what she wanted. She wanted anyone who came here to leave the ugliness of the world behind, to see only the beauty of the world and to find the beauty inside yourself."
"It is beautiful. She did a wonderful job."
"I helped, too!"
Shandi laughed, patting his shoulder. "I'm sorry, Milo. You did a wonderful job as well."
The rest of the drive was filled with laughter and Milo pointed out the outbuildings, explaining where the barn and stables were. "You'll be expected to help out around the place. Rob will fill you in on your duties so don't worry. Look at this as a new start on life for you."
While his words sunk into her ears, the meaning behind them settled into her heart and for the first time in weeks, she felt the sun, not just saw it but felt it warming her. "I'll try, Milo. I'll try."