The Manor House Ch. 15byvelvetpie©
Shandi filled her day with stable chores and painting classes. She had branched out and started a watercolor class, knowing that those who were marginally interested might have an easier time in using watercolors. She tried not to think about Rob and Mariane but every once in a while she would catch herself looking at the door and wondering if Rob was going to walk in and attend class as she always did but she did not. Milo was at dinner but he only stayed long enough to grab something to eat and disappeared again. Shandi curbed her craving to ask after them and retired to her room, saying a prayer for them.
A light knock awoke her from a sound sleep in the early morning hours and she pulled her robe shut as she opened the door to Milo. His sunken eyes and nearly slurred speech told her how exhausted he was. "Milo." She allowed him in, guiding him over to her bed and fetching a cold washcloth, wiping his face clean. "Are you okay?"
"She's almost dead."
"No, Mariane. Rob's staying with her but she won't let anyone else take over." Milo took a deep breath, his eyelids sinking lower as the last of his strength waned. "She's so tired ... "
"I'll go help her, Milo. You stay here, okay?"
"She won't let you."
"I'll make her." Shandi tossed her robe aside and pulled a pair of jeans on over her pajama bottoms. "Now, take off your shoes and get some sleep. I'll come get you in a few hours, okay?"
With Milo snoring soundly in her bed, Shandi headed up to Rob's room, knowing that the woman would want to have Mariane close, especially if she was in bad shape. She found Rob sitting on the edge of the bed, her face streaked with tears and her movements slow and sluggish.
"Go to bed."
"No. I can't. She might die."
"I know that. I'll stay up with her."
Rob raised weary eyes to Shandi, shaking her head negatively. "I won't leave."
"Am I going to have to force you, Robina? Do you want that?"
"I told you not to call me that."
"Then go to bed and I won't have to call you Robina."
Anger burned in the older woman's eyes but she was so tired that she couldn't even verbally fight back. She stumbled over to her own bed and sat down, angrily glaring at Shandi. "That's not fair."
"Who said life was fair?" Shandi took the slippers off of Rob's feet and covered her with the blankets. "Get some sleep. I promise that I'll wake you if something happens."
Shandi watched Rob close her eyes, then went over to Mariane's bed, grimacing at the sight that met her. The woman's face was severely bruised and a large bandage covered half of her lower abdomen. Her eyes fluttered open and it took several seconds for her to focus, a suspicious smile forming on her puffy lips.
"What are you doing here?"
"I might ask you the same question."
Mariane took a deep breath, trying not to cough. She knew that would hurt and she didn't want to feel any pain just now. "I went back to him." She saw the look on Shandi's face and turned away. "Go ahead and laugh. I thought he'd changed. He told me that he was going to change and I believed him."
"That happens to all of us, I'm sure."
"But not to you."
Shandi took a breath and sought out Mariane's hand, giving it a gentle squeeze. "My snake was easier to see than others, Mariane. It's not your fault."
"Maybe not but I should have known." She closed her eyes, visibly weary. "I should have known."
"Don't worry about that now. Get some rest. I'll be right here if you need anything."
Mariane opened her eyes and stared at the woman. "You're staying with me? Where's Rob?"
"Sleeping. She and Milo were exhausted. I'm your support now."
Shandi watched the change in the woman's eyes carefully. "Okay." Mariane again closed her eyes and her breathing seemed to ease. "Shandi?"
"Don't worry about it."
"Thank you." Mariane whispered, slipping off into the bliss of healing sleep. "Thank you so much."
Shandi reached across and turned the light off, leaving the room in partial darkness, the only light being the moonlight that lit the room with its pale glow. She looked over at Rob, her resting countenance beautiful in repose and then returned her gaze to Mariane, holding her hand tight and settling in for the long hours ahead.