By lunch time I was exasperated. Robyn refused to behave and I had pulled her off of the banister more times than I could count.
“But it’s fun sliding down,” Robyn protested. “It’s like flying.”
“That is not what it is for. Go do something less constructive.” I shooed the girl in front of me and out the front door. “Go play.”
Robyn crossed her arms and pouted. “With what?”
“Take Buddy and go exploring.” I gave her a shove and turned back inside.
I could hear Macy crying from somewhere upstairs. Elise had volunteered to watch her for a while so I could get Robyn settled. But Macy refused to let me leave her sight. Not that I blamed the poor baby. I had been gone for so long and she probably thought I wasn’t going to come back if I left her.
Sighing I trudged upstairs to go get my baby. Halfway down the hall Macy’s sobs stopped and she started giggling. I frowned. Something must have happened.
I entered my room and stopped in surprise. Savannah sat on the floor playing with Macy. In her delicate, white hand Savannah held a green, glass horse and was making it jump over a silver spoon. Macy laughed and launched her own blue horse over it.
I sank to the floor behind Macy and touched her hair. Macy turned to me and began babbling in her own language. I smiled at her and let her crawl into my lap.
“Are you having fun with Savannah?” I planted a kiss on her forehead.
“Yeah, yeah.” Macy bobbed her head and scrambled back to Savannah. “Ober.”
She ran her horse across the floor and over the spoon. “Ober.” She pointed to Savannah’s horse and bounced in patiently.
“Ober?” Savannah looked at me.
“Over,” I mouthed.
Savannah nodded and made her horse jump. Macy clapped her hands. Savannah smiled.
“She is such a delight.” She touched my baby’s hands and her eyes softened. “I never had younger siblings and even those who have young children employ nannies to care for them.”
“Why?” As a mother I couldn’t fathom someone else raising my child. Where was the love in that?
“So they have more social time,” Savannah explained. “Dante and I were raised by nannies, governesses and tutors. Maybe that’s why we have no relationship with our parents. They only started taking a remote interest in us when we came of age. But then the only thing they wanted us for was to make good matches.”
“Matches?” I asked. “Matches in what?”
“Marriage. The more money the person had the better. I was launched into society and flung at every rich man around.” Savannah bowed her head and I saw a tear fall from her eyes.
“What about Dante?” I spoke slowly, not sure if I wanted to know the answer.
Savannah straightened her shoulders and looked me in the eye. “Do you really want to know?”
Macy had toddled over to Anne and tugging gently on the dog’s ears. I looked at her. Was I ready to here this about the man I was falling in love with? Would this information make me feel more for him or just pity?
“Yes, I want to know. I have to know.” I led Savannah to the couch and we sat down together.
“Father wanted Dante to take over his business so for about a year Dante went on all Father’s business trips. They spent so much time together and I got jealous. I wanted to spend time with my father too. I begged Dante to tell me what they did so I might get to know my father through him. But he refused. Finally though, he told. Sometimes I wished he hadn’t.” Savannah stopped for a moment. “Crystal, I know you think I’m naive, and maybe I am, but that’s because the truth hurts too much. I’d rather not know then be hurt.”
I didn’t know what to say. I had always thought of her in that way. But now maybe I understood. There were some things I wished I hadn’t ever found out. Like what it was like to be taken advantage of, like what it felt like to lose the family you held close to your heart. But I had discovered those things and I was all the stronger for it. But maybe Savannah didn’t work that way.
“The things Dante told me of my father, I didn’t want to believe. He told me stories of people being threatened if they didn’t pay up, of over pricing rents and evictions. My father even lied and cheated to make his fortune. He did so many things to climb his way to the top and even when he was there he still didn’t stop. He started a campaign to rid the world of all those who could possible hurt anything he had worked for. And all those who weren’t what he considered the right people.”
“That farm camps, the mines?” I wasn’t really that surprised to hear about this. But to know that Dante was the product of such a man yet so honourable, that was surprising. I knew that the mines and the farm camps where horrible places. The people there never survived. They always needed more to work. Dante had told me about his father but Savannah’s tale was different. More emotional. Dante spoke as if he no longer cared. But Savannah’s hurt was still evident. Dante just hid his.
Savannah nodded. “Dante told me about your sister. I’m so sorry about that.”
“Don’t apologize. It wasn’t your fault.” I touched Savannah’s hand and for the first time we really looked at each other.
We had finally found something in common. We both carried a pain that we couldn’t be rid of. Mine she didn’t know and maybe I could tell her one day, but today.
“Why don’t we go down to the barn and find some kittens to play with?” I stood up and called Macy.
With that smile that never failed to delight me, my daughter came running, arms outstretched. I scooped her up and led the way outside.
“Robyn!” I called as we stepped out onto the front drive. “Come here.”
No one answered and I shrugged. “Maybe she’s at the barn.”
Savannah stiffened as Truscott came bounding over. I laid a hand on her arm and she relaxed. “He won’t hurt you.”
She reached down and touched Truscott’s head and a tentative smile crept over her face. “He’s so soft.”
I laughed and we went down the path to the stables talking like old friends. I discovered that Savannah was rather gullible and tried my best not to use it to my advantage. When she found that I had ridden Amour and enjoyed it she told me that I could call the mare my own.
At the barn we found the stables in a frenzy. No more than six horses trotted around the cobblestone courtyard and two dogs ran barking after them. In one corner, a cat hissed from his precarious perch on a stall door while three puppies yipped at him and jumped for the cat’s swinging tail.
“What in the world?” I gasped, clutching Macy to me as one of the horses brushed by. “Greg! Where are you?”
Greg appeared in the door way to the tack room, barely contained anger in his eyes. “Some little hoodlum has been causing havoc here all morning. If I ever catch her...” His voice trailed off.
“She didn’t have red hair by any chance?” I asked.
I nodded. “I think I know who it was and you’ll have to get in line to punish her.”
“What do you mean?” Greg reached out and snagged a barking dog. “She had a dog with her too.”
“Robyn, my sister. She’s in a mood right now. I’d like to say that it’s because she lost her parents but I’m afraid this act of rebellion is because I dragged her into a world she doesn’t understand and left her to her own devises.”
I handed Macy to Savannah and strode to the middle of the courtyard. “Robyn Lynn Reynolds, you get down here now.”
My voice carried over the noise of horses’ hooves and barking dogs. Then a red head peered out from the haymow, a grin on her face.
“Hello, Crystal,” she called. “What’s up?”
I propped my hands on my hips and marched towards her. “You get down here right now, young lady. You have some serious explaining to do.”
The smile on Robyn’s face faded. She stood up and disappeared. I tapped my foot as I waited for her to come out of the barn. When she finally did she wasn’t looking so happy anymore.
“What is the meaning of this?” I waved my hand to encompass the whole stable area.
“I was bored,” Robyn said. “’Sides, you said go explore.”
“I said explore, not cause problems.”
“But they wanted out.” Robyn stomped her foot.
“I’m sure they did but that is for the grooms to decide not you. And since you like being here at the barn so much I propose that you come down here for the next two weeks and help Greg and Pete in the mornings.”
Robyn’s mouth dropped and she crossed her arms over her chest. “Not fair.”
I glared at her and her shoulders slumped. “Alright, alright. I’ll do it.”
I nodded. “Greg, come here and meet my sister.”
Greg came over and stood beside me. I turned him and saw that the anger in his eyes had been replaced with amusement.
“Robyn, this is Greg. Greg, Robyn. She’s going to help you out for the next two weeks. Do you think that will work?”
Greg studied my sister and Robyn squirmed under his gaze. I smiled. She wasn’t so tough as she made out to be.
“Alright, Miss Robyn. I’m glad to have you join our team. I guess you may as well start now. The tack room is a mess. You can straighten it up.”
“Thanks, Greg. Send her back to me at dinner time.”
Greg propelled Robyn into the tack room and I turned back to Savannah. She had stood quietly with Macy watching the whole time.
“How do you do that?” She asked, handing Macy back to me.
“Practice,” I said. “Trust me, when you’ve lived with her for ten years you get used to her mischief. Yelling doesn’t get anywhere with her and neither does anger. So you just punish her before she had a chance to start talking her way out.”
Savannah laughed. “I see. Well, I guess finding kittens is out of the question?”
“They’ve probably fled to Timbuktu by now.”
Laughing we headed back to the house, Truscott and Anne trotting along behind us.