I hated to wake Mandy this early, so I took some time to look around the rather opulent
bedroom. It was lavishly decorated in pink and white. If Mandy could choose her fantasy bedroom, this would be it, I thought. It was at least three times as big as her room at home, and it was evident the decorator knew little girls. Everything was meant to delight a princess. On one end of the room, there was a pint sized rack of dress-up clothes with everything from cowgirl to ballerina costumes. Beside it was a huge mirror and a dancer’s practice bar. Across from the play area, was a reading nook complete with what seemed to be every children’s book written. Everything was appropriate and perfect for a ten year old.
I was about to check out the closets, when I heard Mandy stir. “Mommy,” she said, “Can I keep her?” She was sitting up in bed, holding on tightly to the pretty little doll.
“Well, good morning to you too!” I said, as I sat beside her on the bed. “Where did you find her?”
“She came to me in the night. She said she was happy that I came back. Have we been here before Mommy?”
“No sweet pea, we have never been here.” It appeared that Mandy was already caught up in the fantasies the room inspired. “What else did she say?” I asked, deciding to play along.
“She wanted to know if Andy came back too. I don’t know who that is, so I didn’t answer. I asked her what her name was. She said she’s still Abby Ann. She wants us to play with the big dollhouse.”
“What dollhouse?” I asked.
“I don’t know Mommy. I’ll ask her when she talks to me again. Can we have breakfast now? I’m hungry.”
At a little before 9:00, the three of us headed downstairs for breakfast. The housekeeper who helped us get settled the night before, was standing at the bottom of the stairs ready to show us to the breakfast room. Once we were all seated, she informed us that Miss Sanders would not be joining us for breakfast, but would meet with us in the drawing room at 10:30. The kitchen helper who served us was none too friendly to Aaron or me, but was very attentive to Mandy. The food was delicious.
From what I had seen of the house so far, it appeared that Mandy’s room was an oasis in the desert. Everything was in good repair, but much of it was either dark or gaudy.
I was without a clue as to why Mother hadn’t told me much about Aunt Beatrice, and nothing at all about Uncle Charles or this incredible country estate. I found myself eager to meet my long lost relatives.
The drawing room was straight out of the 19th century. The wood trim was beautiful, and nothing appeared worn, but the colors were dark and dreary.
A robust voice interrupted my silent critique. Aunt Beatrice made her entrance seated on an electric wheelchair, and was driving a little too fast. She
stopped just short of running over Aaron. Whatever was dark and dreary about the house, Aunt Beatrice compensated for. She was wearing a bright blue boa, and a red hat. Her lipstick was bright red, and her perfume was overpowering. She was tiny, yet bigger than life.
“Hellooo, you must be Aaron,” she said as she raised her hand. I could tell Aaron didn’t know whether to kiss it or shake it. Instead, he sort of bowed to her. “It’s very nice to meet you Miss Sanders,” he said. “Please…call me Aunt Bea,” she insisted. “How delightful to finally meet all of you. Now… I’m in need of a nap, so I must get right to the point.” She began to fan herself, and she seemed short of breath.
“The three of you must move to the estate without delay,” she said. “I can no longer care for my brother Charles. Goodness, he can neither live nor die. You do not need to go back to your home. My attorney will take care of everything.”
At this point, I interrupted her. “We can’t possibly do as you ask, we both have our work and Mandy has school.”
“Nonsense,” she was having none of it. “Aaron travels all the time, you work from home, and Mandy will be tutored.”
“When are you planning to move?” I asked.
“Move? I’m not going anywhere,” she said. And with that, she fired up her chair, made a u-turn turn and left the room.
I looked to see where Mandy had disappeared to, and found her behind us, playing with an incredibly beautiful dollhouse and her new friend Abby Ann.