Chapter Five, Part One

Sophie was duly impressed when they rounded the final corner and came into a large clearing dominated by the massive wood-frame school punctuated with assorted cottages and outbuildings. "A lot of people must live here."

"Thirty students, five staff, including teachers and hands, and then there's me, Miguel and Kitta, when she's not away at college. Plus any guests we may have," she added with a smile. She turned to Robert. "I thought Sophie and I would go straight to the barn, but if you're completely starving and would rather wait for us at the house, we can go there first."

Robert shook his head, although the thought of Amalia's cozy living room was a tempting one. "We'll put our horses up together."

"Suit yourself." Amalia led them on a gravel path that bypassed the school and cottages and wound its way toward a barn and two paddocks, one of which was empty. "Bandera would probably like some grass and fresh air after her journey," she told Sophie, "But if you prefer, I have a clean box stall for her."

"She'd like to be outside," Sophie said.

The next half hour was taken up with removing saddles and bridles, grooming the horses, and then monitoring how Bandera and Robert's horse, Flicker, adjusted to their new surroundings. Finally Robert put a hand on Sophie's shoulder and reminded her that they couldn't stay there all day.

"I'm sure supper is waiting," Amalia added.

With a little sigh that was as much shyness as reluctance to leave her horse alone in a new place, Sophie allowed herself to be led toward the sturdy log house where Amalia lived with her husband, Miguel.

Robert had been in regular communication with Miguel over the years because of their mutual efforts to reestablish phone and radio communications in all areas of the former and current United States. Nevertheless, he was unprepared at how time had changed the once-powerful man who had been an early leader in the Unitas movement.

"It's about time you got here," Miguel said, coming out on the porch to greet them. "I saw when you rode up, but didn't think you'd be at the barn that long. I was beginning to think you were planning to eat oats and hay with the horses."

"Good to see you, too, Commander." Robert made to shake his hand.

Instead, Miguel pulled him into an embrace. "None of that 'Commander' business. That was long ago."

Robert had an impression of soft muscles and bony shoulders beneath the older man’s heavy jacket and he felt a pang of lost time. The leaders of his youth had grown old while he dallied far away. Did Miguel and the others of his generation feel that Robert had failed them by chasing after sentimental notions?

Miguel stepped back and looked pointedly at Sophie. "I assume this is the young lady we've heard so much about." He bent over and stuck out his hand. "You can call me Miguel or Grandpa, whichever suits you best."

Sophie stood a little straighter and shook his hand, pleased at being treated like a grownup. "I think I'd like to call you Grandpa."

Robert could tell by the way Miguel's eyes crinkled that he was pleased.

"Well, now that we're all acquainted," Amalia said, "Let's go in and see if dinner is ready."

1 comment:

  1. I would love to see Robert pleased and surprised to discover his efforts at rebuilding communications were recognized and appreciated.