As I walked out onto the train platform in San Francisco I looked for a well-dressed man holding up a sign with my name on it. It wasn’t anything I was used to, but I’d travelled from Denver, Colorado to San Francisco, California and I had no idea what the man who was waiting for me looked like. He was the butler of a man named Mr. Alden who lived in Grover Beach, California. He was said to be filthy rich and owned an estate which he had named Mary Manor. I had no relationship with Mr. Alden but his brother works with my mom. My mom and he talked often and the most recent time they talked he mentioned that he needed someone to help care for his horses this summer. His previous stableman had needed to move away and Mr. Alden himself would do it but he was going on vacation this summer. My mother happily accepted the offer on my behalf without my consent but after she told me about his house and everything I’d get to do and see and have, I was fairly happy with the arrangement.
Just then I took another sweep of the platform and my eyes rested on the sign reading: Henry Marr. Just behind the sign was a tall and slender man with a shallow face and a straight expression. He was one of those people who, although they looked stern upon first glance, you knew right away that they could hardly suppress a smile and it would be easy to make them laugh. His fingers were long and thin and curled around the sign. The nails were perfectly polished and he stood with his heels tight side by side.
I walked forward and towards the butler and he kept a straight face but he seemed pleased to meet me. “Hello. You must be Mr. Marr.”
“Yes I am, but please call me Henry. And what should I call you?”
“My name is Mr. Scott. I work for Mr. Alden as his butler and fetcher.”
“That’s what he calls the person who fetches people from airports or train stations, such as I’m doing with you.” I nodded understandingly and he offered to take my dufflebag.
“Oh, yes thank you.” I said and handed it to him. I then slung my backpack over my shoulder and he led the way to our car. Well it’s not exactly a car, he opened the back door of a limo and I crawled in with a hesitation. I’d never ridden in a limo before but my mom told me I’d be riding in one wherever I went while staying in Grover Beach.
I was the only one sitting in the back on the lush, leather seats and Mr. Scott had gone up front to ride. There was a TV hanging on the wall across from my seat and a shelf underneath that packed with sweets. The windows were tinted and so not much light came streaming through them. I had ridden on the train for one full day and then ten more hours and now we had to drive nearly four hours to reach Mary Manor. So I curled up and lay down on the seat to try and get some sleep, apparently it worked because the next thing I saw out my window was the beginning of a sunset and we were pulling up a long drive.
The drive was circular towards the front of the house and in the center was a circle of grass with a fountain resting on top. I peered out the back window as we drew closer and closer to Mary Manor. The estate had four floors including the attic and nearly eight chimneys protruding from the roof. The house itself was a tan color stone, almost the color of sandstone, with white trim. The middle was bumped out from the rest of the house and that’s where most of the balconies were and also where the large front door was. The front door was raised on platform because it actually opened to the second floor instead of the first. To get up onto the front door platform you walk up a large spiral staircase. The windows were plentiful and the front lawn was huge with hedges and bushes and a pond.
As we pulled up right before the platform the car stopped and Mr. Scott got out. “We have arrived at Mary Manor, Henry.” He said opening the door for me to get out. He grabbed my dufflebag from the trunk and led the way up the staircase to the door. It was a double door made of glass with black trim and as we approached two women who looked similar to each other opened the door for us. They were dressed in a black shirt with white pants and a gray apron. The one on the right looked like she was in her higher 50’s while the other looked like she were in her lower 50s.
“Do they always open the door like that?” I whispered to Mr. Scott.
“No, they’re the maids, they were just asked to do that for your arrival.”
“Are they sisters?”
“Yes. They’re eight years apart.” He answered and soon afterwards the two women spoke at the same time.
“You can call me Mrs. Winter.” The older one said while the younger one said, “You can call me Miss. Winter.”
“Come, come.” They ushered us inside. “We have to get back to our chores but Mr. Scott can show you to your room and then you should go down to the stables and introduce yourself to Mr. Alden’s niece. After that we’ll have our late dinner, we were waiting for you because we didn’t want you to eat by yourself on your first night here.”
“Sounds great, thank you so much. Is Mr. Alden here? I was hoping to thank him in person.” I asked.
“I’m afraid he’s already left, he left early this morning.” Mrs. Winter said.
“That’s a shame.”
“Well, let me show you to your room then.” Mr. Scott said entering the house. “It’ll be a bit confusing at first, it is rather large, but after dinner Lucy can give you a proper tour of the house.”
“Lucy?” I asked.
“Oh excuse me, that would be Mr. Alden’s niece. I’d say by the looks of you you’re probably about the same age.”
“That’s strange, there’s a girl in my grade named Lucy.”
“Does her uncle own an estate in California?” Mr. Scott asked with a smile.
I smiled too. “I’ve got no idea, we don’t talk much, kind of run in different circles I guess. But her last name isn’t Alden so…”
“Ah! Here we are.” We stopped in front of a large wooden door and Mr. Scott threw it open to reveal a beautifully large room. When you walk in the first thing your eyes are drawn to is the window on the wall opposite the door. It was a bay window with a blue seat underneath. On the left wall were two doors and a desk between them and there was a four-poster bed on the right wall. One door led to a large closet, not a walk in, but one filled with a bunch of clothes that I could wear. The other door led to a full bathroom. It had a tiled bath tub and shower combo, a toilet and a vanity. The ceiling in the room was tall and the floors were a dark hard wood. The room positively shouted charm.
I had been looking forward to this summer since the moment my mom told me about it, but I hadn’t known exactly what to expect. I’d asked her several times how many outfits I needed to pack and whether or not there’d be clothes for here. Though now after seeing where I was going to be staying and seeing that they had thought of everything clothes and even a toothbrush I had no more worries and instead I began to wonder if it could get any better.
“Well I’ll set this on your bed along with your backpack while you run down to the stables and meet Lucy. While you're down there tell her it’s time for dinner okay?”
“Yeah, sure. Thanks for everything.” I said and hurried out of the room. I was starting to get really hungry now, because it was getting close to 8:30 and the sooner I met Lucy the sooner we could eat.
I found my way down to the stables with the help of the Mrs. White (or was it Miss White?) within five minutes. As I was approaching them I had to stop for a second to gaze at the beautiful scene before me. I got lucky to make it down there in time to see the sunset. The swirl of colors mixed together, the orange and yellow and pink and even a dash of purple clouded around the sun and together made a backdrop for the stables. From where I was standing it looked as if the sun were perched on the very edge of the stables roof.
The stables were enclosed to protect all the horses and it was built with a beautiful and elegant tan stone that had little flecks of white. There were at least ten stalls all filled with a horse and then two more stalls that were empty. The doors that kept the horses in at night were made of iron bars and it made me think that in the horses’ minds this would be thought of as a five-star hotel.
There were bales of hay stacked high in the corner with bags of apples lent up against them. The aisle between the stalls was swept clean and it actually smelled quite pleasant, if any of the horses had recently down their business you couldn’t tell.
In the second stall on the left a tall girl with straight, layered brown hair stood beside a big brown horse. His body was a light, muddy brown while his tail and mane were a dark chocolate brown. He had a white blob in the middle of his forehead that looked like a blurred star. Once I got closer I got a better look at the girl. She had fair skin and she wore a black and white flannel shirt with the sleeves rolled up to her elbows. She wore slimming, black, leather riding boots that came up nearly to her knees and covered the cuffs of her jeans.
“Um, Lucy?” I said. I saw her jump at the sound of my voice and felt kind of bad. She turned around with a smile which immediately fell away when she saw me. After seeing her face I realized that I knew those big brown eyes and kind smile. So it was the Lucy I knew.