Sick Room, Tyler Hall:
The following morning, Sherman learned of the injured child's presence in his home. One of the servants informed him that his wife had kept vigil by the girl's bedside through the night. After a short debate with himself, he entered the girl's room, standing in eerie silence behind Isabel. She was dozing lightly in a chair beside the bed.
When he turned to walk out, Isabel stirred and looked nervously up at him. She caught the tail end of his stare as he turned away from the child lying on the bed. There was a glimmer in his eyes that she'd never seen before. It was one of disgust, contempt, and rage. Her first impression was that he was already jealous over this newest resident of the keep.
Feeling her eyes on him, Sherman turned to face her. The expression on his face vanished almost at once. After their argument the night before, he decided to bite his tongue and hide the mire of emotions he was feeling in turn for a more cordial greeting to her. A small smile formed on his face as he hastened to her side. He placed a small kiss on her cheek and merely mentioned that a servant had told him it was time for the morning meal. Then, without another word, he walked out of the room.
Isabel stared after him with wonder. Was Gladys right? Was he going to treat her with some consideration at last?
Three days passed before Dr. Armstrong decided the girl should come down from the medication to awaken. It took a few hours for the effects of the drug to begin to wear off. The child slowly opened her eyes, but only to stare mindlessly at the many visitors who came to check on her condition.
Dr. Armstrong assured them all that she was merely in a state of shock from the trauma she'd suffered. Isabel believed him, but frustration ate at her after a week passed by and there was still no change in her behavior.
It didn't take long for Sherman to lose the willpower to conceal his growing rage. Each day he checked in on the girl's progress rather cautiously. He would turn away quietly whenever his wife informed him that the girl still hadn't moved to speak. That was how it continued until the day he approached the room with an air of contempt surrounding him. Isabel was sitting in the girl's room, just as she had been each previous day. She was working in silence, crocheting a large afghan as she sat beside the girl's bed. She'd begun working on it the day the doctor last visited. The size of the thing was the only telltale sign as to how much time had passed. It was that day which Sherman found his disdain for the girl impossible to ignore.
"Haven't you been playing this game long enough," he asked brusquely. "You have a real daughter who needs you more than this hapless'" He caught himself though, biting his lip as he forced himself to keep from speaking the words he really wanted to use. Though he could care less than to see this brainless creature cast out on the side of the road, he didn't want to let on his true feelings to his wife. She seemed to have gained a new backbone and he was easily tiring of it. Still, he was determined to try and remain passive for as long as he could.
Isabel paused for a minute before continuing her work. Thankfully the child was still sleeping. Apparently the small reprieve from Sherman's temper was at an end, she surmised.
"Isabel, should that child remain in this state for a year would you halt your life entirely," he asked flatly. His wife responded to his question with only a casual shrug and that brought his immediate fury to the forefront. God help him, he hated that child! He felt renewed jealousy for the brat lying on the bed. It was smoldering deep within his heart. Somehow the child was stealing all of his wife's attention from him without even trying. He helplessly lashed out, commanding, "I will have your attention when I speak to you, Wife!"
His sharp tone immediately brought Isabel's eyes to meet his. Still, his command mustered nothing more than a stare of defiance from her. Her face rose, though her lack of expression gave no hint to her emotions. She merely stood up and silently walked past him into the hall.
The last thing Isabel wanted was to see the poor girl awaken to hear such a frightening voice bellowing out in the room. Once they were safely outside the room, Isabel turned calmly to face him. Rather than answering his inane question, she decided to tell him what she was planning to do.
"I am going to have her moved to one of the spare rooms upstairs. I want to keep a close eye on her while she recuperates," she informed him unyielding.
"No, you will not. That I forbid," he grated tersely. He realized she was not asking his permission, which enraged him all the more.
"I will not allow Serena to come near a child like that." His voice was laced with finality. "I want that child sent to Master House today! She has no place in my home."
"What is Master House," she asked, deeply concerned. Her eyes drew suspiciously to his. She noticed how fidgety he had suddenly become. Never in their marriage had she known him to be fidgety.
"Master House is a home several hundred miles from here. She can get real help there."
"An institution," she shrieked.
"Yes, an institution!" He exploded. "She does not belong here. I will not have her spreading psychotic filth through this house. Serena is too young to understand the reasons you are ignoring her'"
Those words hit Isabel like a slap in the face. "How dare you? For your information, I had a very long chat with Serena the night of the storm, after you left the house. I told her exactly how much I love her'whether I am with her or not. However, I did refrain from telling her that you are the reason I get to spend so little time with her!" Her words were angrily unleashed upon him, and for a split second she actually felt the urge to spit at him for the pain he'd unfairly caused them all to bear. With conviction, Isabel vowed, "You will no longer control my actions, Sherman. If you want to keep hindering me from raising Serena as I see fit, I am prepared to take the inheritance I received from my father's estate to live with my relatives.
"And, the same goes for that child who is lying helpless in that room. I've grown to love her in every possible way. If you dare send her away from me, ever, I will never forgive you. You will break my heart to do something so cruel." Isabel choked back a sob and eyed him tearfully. Shaking her head mournfully, she pushed past him to enter the girl's bedroom. As she gripped the door to shut him out, she turned back rather vengefully. "She is not brain damaged! She is frightened and hurt!"
The only sound to reach Sherman after that was the oaken door sealing firmly shut.
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