The Manor House Ch. 16byvelvetpie©
The next morning, Shandi awoke Rob with breakfast on a tray, then went to help Mariane feed herself. She didn't have much of an appetite but Shandi convinced her to eat half of her egg white omelet and two slices of toast. While she washed it down with weak lavender tea, Shandi moved over to Rob's bed, checking on her progress and was happy to see that Rob had finished her meal, sopping up the last of her runny egg yolk with toast.
"Good." Shandi took the tray, stacking the plates. "You needed to eat. I bet that's the first real meal you've eaten since she arrived."
"You're far too observant."
"Not when it's someone I care about."
Mariane didn't give Rob a second to respond because she choked on her tea. Shandi went dashing over, wiping Mariane's chin and hands. "Sorry."
"We have to talk about Rob, Mariane. I love her." Mariane looked over at Rob who was just sliding out of bed, then returned her gaze to Shandi. "If we're going to work together, I want things to be smooth between us."
Her head dipped a little and both Rob and Shandi saw tears drip onto her hand. "I was so jealous of you. I saw the attraction when you first got here and I was so jealous." She sat back, wiping her cheeks with a shaky hand. "I've been in love with Rob since the first day and when you just waltzed in and took over ... I just lost it." Mariane's eyes connected with Rob's. "I lied when I said that she seduced the new girls. Rob's not like that. She'll give you all the love you need but she never lets anyone get close."
Shandi looked up at Rob and Rob reached down, clutching Shandi's hand. "Can you deal with this?"
Mariane smiled weakly. "As long as we're friends, I can."
Rob leaned forward and grasped Mariane's hand. "We will always be friends."
* * * * *
A week went by and Mariane got stronger. She took over her regular role in the kitchen and was welcomed back by Lisa and Melba. Others noticed that she had changed and women flocked to her, seeking her friendship. Rob was pleased to see her finally opening up and making new friends and was even more surprised to see her taking Shandi's painting class.
Shandi continued with her classes and learned more about herself. Her painting became deeper and more introspective and Rob noticed that each one of the paintings became progressively better. After a second week, Rob made a secret trip into town and after making a few necessary arrangements and taking Milo in as her confederate, Shandi returned to her room after class to find an envelope waiting on her bed.
"Shandi, I have a surprise for you. Please be ready at 9:00 for a date. Rob."
Tingles raced through her as she dressed, choosing her best pants and blouse and fixing her hair and make-up. She had to look perfect and she found herself gazing at her reflection in the mirror and laughing heartily at her teenage excitement. At nine, Milo knocked on her door, escorted her out to the van and drove her to one of the city's most famous art gallery, Carlo's. He handed her an envelope and drove away, leaving her alone in front of the imposing building.
Shandi opened the envelope and saw that it was a ticket, a hand-drawn ticket for an opening for her artwork. Please join us at Carlo's gallery for a private showing by artist Shandi. A thrill went through her, seeing her own name on a ticket for a showing and she strode up to the gallery's door, pushing against it and surprised when it swung inward. A beautiful young lady in an elegant dress stood waiting just inside.
"Are you Shandi?"
"Please follow me."
Shandi pocketed the ticket and followed the woman down a hallway, gazing at the pieces of artwork that adorned the walls. A left, then a right and the corridor opened into a room that contained ... Shandi slowly moved past the woman, staring in amazement at her own pieces, lovingly framed and on display. Her heart pounded as she moved past each painting, remembering when she'd first painted them. They had been arranged so that she could see her personal growth: tentative strokes on the first few and bold, decisive strokes on the rest.
"Do you like them?"
Rob's voice startled her and she smiled brightly, running over and throwing her arms around her. "I love it. But what is this?"
"Your first show."