We’re back with another week of FFF. Sorry if you’ve been checking all day for this post, but it’s here now. This week I chose to use my own prompt. Some of you may have had the childhood tradition of Sunday breakfast in your house. In my house it was very much a weekly routine, and with all of us kids, we loved when my mom would make biscuits or something special for us because we knew how hard she’d worked and how good they were going to taste.
I took this tradition and twisted it a bit for this week’s prompt because I was actually making wheat-free biscuits a few days ago and they turned out disgusting ( or rather how they were supposed to taste) and I got to really missing the good old stuff. So this is homage to the biscuits I cannot have. *pouts*
Hope you enjoy!
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A Nanny Tale: Part 2
You’re never going to believe what I’m doing today. All right, maybe my next step isn’t that far beyond your grasp, but I’m still excited about it. I got the new job and today is officially moving day. Right now we’re at the Rice’s and Chris has his Tahoe packed up with my stuff—my clothes, my television and my Xbox, Sterling the body pillow, and what few things I’ve managed to carry with me the past couple of years. It might not seem like a lot of stuff to everyone else, but how much do I really need to get by?
Chris doesn’t complain about my lack of material things. In fact, he seems to be impressed by my small, nomadic collection of possessions. Maybe I’ve mesmerized him with my box packing abilities and that’s why he’s being civil to Torri, although I know he wants to openly cringe.
Who the hell wouldn’t?
I mean, she’s touching his shoulder, giving him a flirtatious smile that’s such a sham her teeth look ready to shatter. She’s wearing nothing but a white bikini top and some gauzy wrap thing around her hips like it’s perfectly normal to greet strangers at the end of your driveway in next to nothing. What I do know, though, maybe that’s a thing now. Probably not. Okay, not at all. She’s a slut and I hate her for trying to feel up Chris while her soon-to-be ex-husband watches her desperate attempt to make him jealous.
Something in Jacob Rice has changed since he made the decision to expunge Torri from his heart. He walks taller. He smiles more. He doesn’t look tired as he carries the last bag of my stuff to the Tahoe, shuffling along in flip flips like he isn’t some bigwig sales guy in the corporate world.
Jacob doesn’t spare Torri the time of day as he helps Chris shut the back door and then shakes his hand. He refuses to turn around at the loud snort she produces to seek his attention. Torri glares at her husband’s back and then huffs off without so much as a goodbye for me—not that I ever expected one.
You won’t see me crying about it. As far as I’m concerned: Good riddance, you she-demon hoe.
The guys are deep in conversation when I approach with my set of keys for Jacob. Chris is nodding to Jacob’s top secret tale. My new boss has his arms crossed over his chest, appearing rather serious. Then Jacob turns his palms up and smiles like it’s the punch line to the best story Chris has ever heard. Chris shoots me a look of excitement as if Jacob has just told him he has the power to make his dick twice as large. He waves me over.
“Guess what Jacob just told me?”
Jacob grins; a slow lift of his upper lip to reveal a million dollar double row of pearly whites. Fuck I’m gonna miss that look. “Chris tells me he’s looking for something reliable you can drive around town because he only has the one vehicle.”
“Okay…” I look between them. Chris didn’t mention this to me at all, but he is almost bouncing with joy. Jacob, however, is as cool as a cucumber, some new adopted personality he got from a good night’s sleep, or maybe Torri has driven him to start smoking pot. I dunno, but it suits him.
Jacob continues, “And since Torri is keeping the Lexus, and I already have the company car, and we’re going to sell off everything anyway...” His smile deepens. Butterflies attack my insides. Jacob eyes the garage. “It’s yours. I’d rather you have it; someone I know will take care of it, instead of Torri taking a baseball bat to it when I’m not looking. According to the prenup, what’s mine is mine and all that jazz. She doesn’t like that little detail.”
“Jacob, I can’t possibly.” I exhale noisily. My heart thuds in my chest. Fifteen thousand dollars had been one thing, and I was still thinking about giving it back because it was too much, but the vehicle in that garage is Jacob’s summer toy, his little pride and joy. Scratch that, his big pride and joy.
Jacob squeezes my shoulder. “It was a gift from a client. I didn’t pay a dime for it, so don’t give me that look. Take advantage of the fact that I don’t give a shit anymore and indulge me.”
“No way, this is too much.” I stand there open mouthed as he takes the house keys from my hand and replaces them with a shiny key fob.
Everyone imagines winning the lottery at least once in their life; what they would do with all that money. The reality is you know you’ll never be that lucky. You grieve the good life you’ll never have for a split second before you get back to the middle of the road life you do have. You learn to appreciate the small things and have pretty much conceded to live paycheck to paycheck.
You also learn to be kind in a bitter world, even though nine times out of ten your kindness will never be returned. So when someone hands you not only a check for fifteen thousand dollars, but the keys to a vehicle that’s paid for free and clear and tells you just to take it, no strings attached, you don’t know what to do. You never pictured the minute you discovered you’d won the lottery or how you’d react in that very moment.
I’ll tell you what I’d do, because right now I feel like I’ve won the lottery and I don’t feel worthy of it. I try to turn away to hide my eyes because no one has ever been this kind to me. No one will probably ever be this kind to me again. I attempt to keep calm and wipe away the burning tears in my eyes because I cannot let Jacob or Chris see me cry.
When I was growing up it was instilled in me by grandparents and the village idiots around us that men didn’t cry. Tears that were caused by anything but a serious injury made you a pansy or a weakling—some “only the strong survive” methodology that was hammered into my brain from a young age. Men existed to donate their sperm for the repopulation of the world, to fix broken disposals, kill spiders, bring home a paycheck, and sit in silence as their women barked orders because they had nothing better to do.
Like me, my mom was a black sheep of our community, and she always told me that was horseshit; that I could cry if I wanted to. Somehow, even my mom’s assurances never seemed to stick. There was still that fear that I wasn’t man enough if I showed emotion and it was times like this that made the fear rear its ugly head to make me question myself.
While I know I’m a man because I have the correct plumbing, the past is still always there at the back of my mind. The only times I cry are in private, and not because I was lying around, swimming in depression and working through my non-existent daddy issues or some crap like that. Not because I’m gay and alone. Not because I still haven’t “accepted” myself either.
Nope. I cry for three reasons. Every time some godforsaken women’s movie channel plays Steel Magnolias, and Shelby’s husband comes home to find her brain dead on the floor, and that poor baby is crying for his mama, and—what the fuck did they have to do that for?
Every time I get sucked into a viral video marathon and I can’t stop clicking, I somehow end up on those Coming Home videos where soldiers return home to surprise their loved ones. Everyone is crying and there’s always some elaborate setup or that man has never met his baby or this lady hasn’t seen her giant ass dog in three years and he runs to her open arms. Yeah. Those fucking videos are the devil.
And last but not least—and I’m not proud of this—is the cat dressed like a shark riding around on a Roomba video. It gets me every single time. It’s really not that funny, but for some reason it is to me. I laugh until my stomach hurts like I’ve done a thousand crunches, which will never be the case because crunches are for people who can do them without injuring themselves. But the cat? Funny as shit, I tell you.
So right now, dealing with my emotions and crying over something other than a movie or a stupid video brings it all back to me. It’s painful and scary and I’m not sure how to accept this. I do know, however, know that I can’t lose it completely. That would be unprofessional, and damaging to any shred of masculinity I need to be able to stand next to these men, and not look the part of sloppy nanny boy with shaggy hair and converse sneakers that cries like he just won a mini cooper on Oprah.
“Hey,” Jacob’s soothing voice washes over me. He laughs and puts his arm around my shoulders. “I owe you bigger than a car, Logan. You stuck around through it all, and no matter how terrible my kids treated you, you still kept them safe when I was gone. To me, that’s worth all the money in the world. Money I can’t take it all with me when I’m dead, so I figure pay it forward when I can.”
“It’s a car! Not just any car, a really expensive car!” I finally snap. My face is a mess I can’t hide from them. I’m pretty sure there is snot on my upper lip and no one says anything about it. How can they look at me like this is not a big deal? I am snotting for fuck’s sake.
“It’s your really expensive car now.” Jacob hits a button on his keys and opens the garage.
There sits his glossy black Range Rover with all the trimmings. It’s my metaphorical mini cooper and Jacob Rice is my Oprah. Oh fuck this is really happening.
I choke on my breath upon seeing it. Not my most glamorous moment. There’s a phlegmy noise and some serious blinking. Again, no one points out my snotty nose or my bloodshot eyes and splotchy cheeks. They just allow me a moment to comprehend that I’m getting a fancy set of wheels for free.
You have to understand where I come from to know that never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d ever own something this nice. When you tell people you’re from Illinois, they automatically think Chicago and big money and all that goes with it. I’m sorry to put a damper on your imagination, but Chicago isn’t all that Illinois is, and a lot of people who live in the city actually struggle to make ends meet.
I’m not originally from Chicago, but rather a small town in Southern Illinois that is a few hundred people above village standards. I grew up in a room in my grandmother’s house, me and my mom shacked up with my aging, strict grandparents, and together my grandmother and my mom ran a gas station left behind to them by my grandfather when he died. When my mom and I moved out of my grandmother’s house, we moved into a trailer just down the road that had one bedroom and a large closet that was big enough to fit my twin bed.
My mother drove a beat to hell Chevy. I rode a bike. I only graduated high school because I knew it was the only way I could get the fuck out of that place. I would have gone to college, but it was too damn expensive and the loans would have eaten me alive. So when my hopeful eyes saw a want ad from the paper in a larger city next to us seeking a nanny, my fantasies drove me to seek out a world beyond the dusty, trailer filled roads of my hometown.
And by some karmic fate, I was now being handed keys to a car only rich people drove. Me, the dirty, poor boy from the wrong side of the tracks would roll around town in a Range Rover. I just can’t believe it. I can only cry and hope Chris doesn’t think I’m insane and dump me and my emotional baggage on the side of the highway.
Jacob hugs me. I shake in his arms and grip the key he’s given me. “Thank you,” I whisper.
He pulls away. “You deserve it.”
Like I said, you never know how you’ll react to someone’s simple act of kindness. Whether it be receiving a winning lottery ticket from a stranger, whether someone gives you a meal when you’re starving, or the shoes off their feet when you don’t have any to keep walking, or even being handed the keys to a car for nothing in return.
Some people care about you. Those are the people you will always remember above the hate. Those are the people who give you a reason to keep going.
Jacob Rice is a kind man. I’ve put him on my favorite’s list right under my mom. I will always remember what he’s done for me.
“Thank you,” I repeat.
I wipe my eyes to see Chris staring at me. His eyes are a little watery too. It’s the warm and fuzzy look a parent gives to their young child who is fucking up during their first Christmas pageant. I don’t feel so ashamed anymore if he’s chosen to look at me that way, like I mean something to him, like this is just as big of a deal to him as it is to me.
“Follow me home?” he asks.
“Yeah,” I murmur like I’m in a dream. Home. I still have one of those too. I feel like the luckiest guy alive because I’m not being abandoned by the Rice Family, I’m just extending my family by three more.
“I’ll drop off the title this week before we start clearing out the house.” Jacob nods at the Rover. “Make sure to look into insurance soon. I have the number to my guy if you want it.”
“I’ll take care of it,” Chris assures Jacob, and then shakes his hand. “Thanks for everything. I appreciate it.”
“Not a problem. We’ll be in touch.” Jacob steps away. “See you around, Logan.”
In my book this means he isn’t cutting me out of the picture. Now I’m Jacob’s friend, not his employee, and I can call on him if ever the need arises. That’s a good feeling. It’s a good ending to this part of my past.
“Yeah. See you around.” I lift my hand and watch Jacob Rice go inside. When the front door shuts, I look helplessly to Chris. “He gave me a car.”
“I see that.” Chris chuckles. “You’re going to be Joey’s new best friend with that beast. He’s gonna look like a celebrity when you drop him off at school.” He looks down at the ground, his cheeks burning up. “Maybe you wouldn’t mind giving me a ride later too.”
This makes me smile. “Uh, yeah, I look forward to it.”
He clears his throat and shifts from foot to foot. His blushing schoolboy look is gone, but his smile is still there. “Will you get in already and come home? Grumpy is going to pitch a fit if I don’t get the grill going soon, and we might come home to Joey imprisoned under his recliner as ransom for steak.” He laughs. “Get in the car, Logan.”
“Whatever you say, boss.” I dangle the keys, biting back a girlish squeal.
He points at me. “And don’t you forget it.”
It’s been a week since I moved into the Wyzak house. Instead of living above a garage, I now live in a basement with a walkout to the beach. Talk about an upgrade. There’s a lock on every door of my basement apartment, and they all work—not that I have to worry about Chris barging in to feel me up, although I admit I’ve thought about that, and wouldn’t exactly dread it. Grumpy on the other hand…
I thank my stars he can’t walk down stairs.
So far things are stressful and crazy. We’re getting into a new routine. I’m an addition that plays a pivotal role to this little family of three and no one is sure of what to make of it, myself included. Joey wasn’t lying when he said Chris works all the time. I suspect he’s trying to keep everything perfect at the restaurant he inherited from his late grandfather. There is a reputation attached to Wyzak’s Restaurant and Bakkerij. A forty-five year legacy that is a piece of local history Chris can’t stand to screw up.
He has trouble managing his personal life on top of his business, and things just escape him. Which is why I think Joey is neat and orderly; he wants to bridge the gap between father and son, and make his dad’s life easier so he gets a bit of attention at the end of the day. It’s painful to watch. I have so many opinions, but it’s not place to offer them. That’s the hardest part of this job: knowing you are considered family, but not blood, therefore you have no real say in anything important.
Somehow I manage to drag myself out of bed with these heavy thoughts on mind first thing in the morning. I credit my survival to my own coffee pot in my new kitchenette, courtesy of Chris and the freshly ground beans he brings home from the restaurant for me. I’m able to sip my coffee at five in the morning and stare out at the lake as the sun is just opening its eyes from the other side of the world.
After that moment of bliss, I trudge upstairs in my sweats to a quiet house. Along the way I pick up a few things, tidy this and straighten that before I get to the refrigerator to make breakfast. I’ve had yet to do this since coming to the Wyzak house. I’ve never been able to make a proper breakfast since I’ve been a nanny. Usually everyone skips the meal or grabs a bowl of cereal before heading out these days.
This day is rare to me. This day reminds me of my mom and the Sunday breakfasts she somehow managed to make every week for the two of us, no matter how busy she was or what obligations she had. There was so much food we never ate it all, but the fact that we had extra always made us feel rich and always left us happy. Thinking about her got me to call her. It’d been a while anyway, and with everyone asleep, I knew I could tell her anything.
I hold the phone between my shoulder and cheek as I pull things out of the fridge. She answers without hesitation. “How’s my boy?”
“Good. Making breakfast. You?” I scoop some flour out of the canister into a bowl.
“I’m making biscuits for Robbie. He’s gotta make a run to Louisiana this afternoon, so I thought he might want some for the road.”
My stepfather Robbie is a truck driver and he’s real sweet on my mom. She returns the favor by making him fat every chance she gets. He loves it. They’re good together. I’m happy for them. “Tell him I said hi.”
“He’s right here. You want to tell him yourself?”
“No thanks, I called to talk to you. I’m making biscuits too.”
She hums in that curious way and the sound is like a hug. Sometimes I really miss her. “For those kids? I wouldn’t waste my time, Logan.”
“That’s what I called to tell you. I’m not working for the Rice family anymore.”
She sniffs, kind of gasps. “You on your own? You need some money, baby? I can come get you in a second if you need me.”
“No, mom, I’m fine. I swear. I’m … I’m really good actually.”
She pauses. Her smile is silent but there. I know my mom well. “You meet a good boy and you didn’t call you mother? When were you gonna tell me, when I was dead?”
I chuckle softly and begin to work the dough in the bowl. “Not a guy, mom.”
“My God, Logan, are you with a woman? You don’t have to shack up with some broad for a roof over your head, and don’t start with me that you love her or I’m gonna have a heart attack. We had a talk about this when you were ten. You swore up and down that girls didn’t do it for you.”
“Mom,” I laugh. “I’m not shacking up with a broad. Jesus. I’m working for a new family and I’m making them breakfast because it sounded nice.”
“It sounded nice? You don’t make breakfast for just anyone. That’s our thing, unless we’re talking Pop Tarts from the toaster.” She sighs. “I guess if they deserve biscuits they must be doing something right for you.”
I shrug even though she can’t see it. “I like them, mom. They’re very different from my last gig, but in a good way. The dad, Chris, he owns a really popular restaurant here in town. He works a lot, but he’s a nice guy. His dad lives with him and he’s a real trip, nothing I can’t handle, although I think he’s a homophobe or something. I get that vibe.”
“That asshole say something to you?” My mom growls like only mama bears can.
“He says a lot of things, nothing of them nice, but he’s never called me anything outright. I just feel it. He treats Chris like shit and I suspect that’s why.”
“Oh,” she says. “That’s new.”
“You into him?”
“This Chris guy?”
“Ah, Jesus, mom, just because he’s gay doesn’t mean I’m automatically attracted to him.” I huff.
“Defensive tone, making biscuits for a man who is most likely still sleeping, and already hating his dad—you like this guy.” She sniggers.
“I’m telling you like it is. I’m not—”
I roll my eyes and punch the dough. “Fine. He’s good looking, alright? You caught me.” I snort. “Mom, it ain’t gonna happen. It’s a touchy situation. I’m pretty sure he’s not comfortable talking about his sexuality, much less hooking up or dating or whatever your imagination is plotting over there. Then he’s got this super smart kid that has a lot of social issues and he needs help getting out there and making friends. Then there’s Chris’s dad, everything’s complicated on that end, and he’s about to have surgery and Chris is pretty stressed.”
“Whoa, darlin’, slow it down. I was just teasing you.” She pauses. “Baby, that’s a lot to handle by yourself. Are you sure this is right for you?”
“I can do this. I’m just making breakfast. No big deal.” I pinch off a piece of dough, shape it into a ball, and put it in the pan.
“Is that why you called me, to tell you that you can, or to talk you out of it? You can do anything you set your mind to, Logan, but the question is will you be okay? I worry about you, you know. Always trying to prove yourself, take it a step further, and I know this gig means a lot to you, but what do you get out it in the long run? Where’s your future in this?”
I don’t like these talks because she’s always right. This career choice of mine isn’t going to hold me long term. It won’t pay for my retirement, or get me a husband, or help me get a kid of my own, a house and the life I really want. Nevertheless, I feel I’m needed here. I’m like Mary friggin Poppins and one day I won’t be needed anymore. When that time comes I’m not sure what I’ll do. Until then I’m going to make the best of it.
“I got a car,” I announce. That’ll distract her.
“A what? How the hell did you afford that?”
“It was a gift from my last employer.”
She groans. “Logan…”
“He gave it to me! I didn’t want it. I tried to tell him no, I swear it.” I sigh and lean against the counter. I can just imagine what’s going through her head right now. “It’s a Range Rover,” I supply because she’ll ask me anyway.
“Christ on a cracker, Logan. What did you do to make him give you a Rover? Do I need to shut him down? Is he shady like that? Or is he like your… sugar daddy.”
“Ugh. Mom, I didn’t have to blow him.”
“Sorry.” I wince. “He’s getting divorced and was going to get rid of it before his wife went all Carrie Underwood on the poor thing. When he gave me those keys, I cried like a little bitch.”
“Language, Logan. Sheesh.” She blows out a long exhale into the receiver. “So a Rover? Don’t see those around these parts. They’re gonna make a metrosexual out of you yet. Pretty soon you’ll be sporting Gucci loafers instead of sneakers and I won’t recognize my own baby when he decides to finally visit his poor mother.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll keep the sneakers when I actually join their cult.” I chuckle.
Her tone was softer, as if she was on the verge of tears. “I miss you too, mom.”
“I miss you more, Logan. Call me after he’s had your biscuits, I want to hear what my future son-in-law sounds like when he’s been properly satisfied.”
“That sounded so wrong, and he’s not—”
She cut off my next line of defense. “Meh, you get to be my age and you take it where you can get it.” She cracks up laughing. “Bye, darlin’. Love you.”
“Love you too, mom. Bye.”
I put the phone down and stare at the darkened hallway where Chris’s door is. He’s probably in a coma at this point with all the hours he put in this week. Instead of thinking of his sexy, sleeping form, I put my focus into making the best damn biscuits he’ll ever taste. So good my great grandmother will dance in her grave and throw confetti to congratulate me.
If there was one thing my mother was right about, it was that I could do anything I put my mind to. The repercussions of my actions didn’t matter because biscuits always had a future and Sundays weren’t going to stop coming just because I made him breakfast once.
By the time Chris shuffles down the hall, I have two loads of laundry done, the kitchen is clean, coffee is going, and breakfast is on the coffee table. He stops in the middle of the living room, blinks a few times, and then checks out all I’ve done while he’d been asleep.
“What’s happening?” He takes his glasses off and rubs his eyes. Glasses back on, he looks at the tray of eggs, bacon, and biscuits and then back to me. “Am I awake?”
“That’d be some kind of dream. Me making you breakfast, I mean.” I hand him a cup of coffee. “Or do you always dream about your nannies? Maybe that Mel—what’s her name—wasn’t far off about you coming on to her.”
He chokes on his coffee and coughs. “I’m not…” He wipes his face on his forearm. “I wasn’t…”
“That was a joke, Chris. Sit down before you hack up a lung.”
He sits between two piles of clothes, squirming until he appears at ease. Then he wrinkles his nose and shoots me a disturbed look. “Did you fold my underwear?”
“I’m sorry, do you not fold them?” I smirk as I finish wiping down the counter.
“You folded my underwear,” he says now as a statement, not as a question.
“They’re just underwear, not anything I haven’t seen before. It’s not like you put your leopard G-string in the wash, so don’t get all flustered.”
Of course he gets flustered. He’s looking at his underwear like they’re going to bite him. He looks up at me and adjusts his glasses. God, he’s adorable all sleep rumbled and confused. The creep of red across his cheeks is something I’m not used to seeing, but it’s there and I find it rather attractive. He’s sheltered from what I can tell, and the idea of his nanny touching his underwear either arouses him and he’s trying to hide it, or he’s seriously not okay with it.
I’m inclined to believe he secretly digs it.
“You want jelly or honey for your biscuits?”
“You don’t have to do laundry. You’re not the maid.”
I clamp my lips together with my back turned to him. Laughing when he’s so embarrassed would be bad. Thing is, he shouldn’t be. Those were some of the cleanest undies I have ever washed. If anything he should be proud to show them off. “Chris? Am I living here or am I some rent boy fixture that just watches your kid and gets stowed in the basement when night falls?”
“What? No. Of course you’re not. I mean, yes, you live here.” He puts down his coffee and grinds his nose into the heel of his palm. Fuck,” he whispers.
Alrighty then—he’s not that good with words. I can deal with that. I can talk enough for the both of us. “If I live here then I’m going to pitch in and do some laundry, and cook some food, and take the trash out to the end of the mile long driveway when it needs it on occasion. This is what I do when I live somewhere. It’s not a job. It’s part of being a member of the household. Not a big deal.”
“Oh.” He unclenches a little and turns around on the couch. “I just don’t want you to think that’s what I hired you to do.”
There’s that word again: hired. I always jump into the pool without a care of what I’m landing in. In this case, I got a dose of the warm fuzzies and thought I was family because that’s how it felt. Getting hit with the H word always brings me down a few pegs, always reminds me that this isn’t really my family, but my place of work and I should act accordingly. Some people just don’t get me. I thought he got it. That’s okay. I’m used to having pipe dreams that never go anywhere.
“Got it,” I mutter.
“I said I hear you loud and clear, boss. Eat your breakfast before it gets cold. I’m sure you have a lot to do today.”
He squeezes his eyes shut and rubs his nose. The fuck? Does he have a cold? “I’m not going in until noon.”
I shrug. His schedule only matters to me when it’s written on the fridge calendar. That’s not really true, I do care about his schedule, but right now I’m feeling a little bitter and trying not to let him in on it. This relationship is fresh. Apparently I’ve already fucked up by folding his underwear and making him biscuits. That’s a job for someone’s husband, not their nanny, and I just realized that I’ve made him so uncomfortable in all of ten minutes that it’s probably a world record somewhere.
My mother is right. I’m in over my head. The job title should have read “father seeks someone to walk on eggshells,” and I’m nothing but a shell crusher. Go figure.
“I’m sorry, Logan, thank you for doing of all this. You kind of surprised me, is all.”
“Not the first time I’ve heard that. Don’t worry. From now on I’ll stick to the job. Sorry to make you uncomfortable.” How fucking pathetic does that sound? Very—that’s how pathetic.
He plays with his thumbs and looks up at me. “Can we talk before they get up? It’s been one thing after the other here lately and, well yes, you just landed in my lap… I mean, shit, that sounded wrong. You came into our lives and we haven’t really had time to discuss a plan or what I need from you and Dad is going to be out soon, and the nurse and the PT will be in and out of here, and … Logan, can you please sit down?”
He hadn’t been up for long and already he was about to have a nervous breakdown. I’d been wrong to snip at him in my own way, however casual it may have come across, because he didn’t deserve my petty remarks when he had the weight of the world crushing his shoulders as it was.
I sit down in the chair opposite him and rest my hands in my lap. “Okay, here it is, and you just need to listen. Can you do that for me?” He’s uncertain, but nods anyway. “Cool. For starters, yeah this was fast. I agree with you there. On the other hand, you’re posting at Sabine’s office was desperate. It’s what we in the nanny biz call a red flag situation. That means you’re in trouble and you need someone who can handle what you’re offering.”
“Oh my god,” he groans into his hands.
“Chris, look at me.”
Sagging into the couch, his neck bent down, he manages to make eye contact. I smile to ease his pain. “Your predicament isn’t pretty, it isn’t perfect, and it’s not ever going to be. What it can be is manageable and painless if you have the proper help. Now, I use the term help loosely because I hate to be known as part of the staff because I’m helping this family by taking care of your child when you can’t.”
I hold up my hands when he opens his mouth. “You’re a great father and if your circumstances were different, I know in my heart you would be with Joey every second of the day, but the fact is you can’t be because you are continuing to run a part of your family that has been around for several generations. That’s special and it’s noble of you, but while you’re doing that, I’m doing this. Joey doesn’t need me to shadow him everywhere he goes. He’s fully capable and smart and a little odd at times, but he needs down time too. When he doesn’t need me, I work on helping you when I can. If that means folding underwear, getting Grumpy a drink, or fixing a meal, then I’m happy to do it for no extra charge.
“Since I’m living here and I’m going to form a relationship with each and every one of you in some way or another, you can consider me a friend. Hell, I’ll be happy to be considered family if you want. If you need something, I will do whatever is in my power to help you. Do you understand that? Being a nanny has it limits and it’s not very glamorous, but I’m a person too, and I have a heart, and I want to help you. This isn’t pity, Chris. This is real life and this is what you hired me to do. If you don’t feel the same way, then tell me now before it’s too late and I lose out on finding another family that gets it.”
I can’t believe I got that out. I can’t believe he’s still looking at me like he doesn’t want to kill me. It was over the top, my speech, and parts of it I wish I could take back. I’d never had the balls to talk to an employer like this, to negotiate in not so subtle terms that this was how things went when working with me. I want to immediately apologize, but I’m not sorry. I mean every word of it.
He shakes his head. This is it. Oh shit, please don’t let it hurt. “I don’t need you to nanny me. I’m a grown man. Some things I need to do around here because it makes me feel like I’ve done my part when I get home, that not everything in my life is about running the restaurant. I know I set myself up for failure by taking in my dad. I do know that. I know I work long hours and I neglect my son. I thought by having you here I wouldn’t feel as guilty about it, but now I feel even worse that someone else has to see this mess for what it is.”
I let my bottom lip go from where I was sucking on it. I nod slowly. “I’ll pack my things. I’ve got enough money to get by at a hotel for a while until something else comes along. I’ll try and be out by tomorrow, the sooner the better because I have no intention of bonding with your child if you’re gonna do me like that. It’s not fair to Joey.”
“Logan, I’m not firing you.”
I cross my arms and cock my head. “Really? Because that’s what this sounds like. Sooner or later you’re going to resent me for being there for your child because you’re so deep in self-loathing that you don’t know how to accept help. Normally, I wouldn’t be telling you this because you’re my employer, but this entire situation isn’t normal and like I said, I’m as human as the rest and can only deal with so much. I don’t get why you have so much trouble letting me help you fold some clothes because you’re so tired you can barely keep your eyes open, but if you want to do it on your own, fine. I hear you.”
“Logan,” he growls. “It’s not about the damn clothes. It’s about me having a hard time coming home to everything done, everything already happened and I missed it. It’s about you stepping in and me stepping out and I feel like I’ve done something wrong. I know I need your help. And yeah, Sabine told me you were the only one who would even look at my offer. She also told me to expect you to tell me like it is and to trust you even when it didn’t seem like you knew what you were doing. That you always have a reason.”
“Then what the hell do you want from me? If I’m such a loud-mouthed, amateur nanny, that—oh my god—folds a freaking pair of underwear and makes you homemade friggin biscuits, then why the hell would you want me?” I wipe my nose on the back of my hand and realize what I’ve said. How mad he’d made me and I didn’t know why. Chris is attractive, but he also has deep seeded issues that not even glitter and unicorns can fix. This was not what I signed up for and I would not continue to feel unworthy to this man during my stay simply because I did something nice.
“I want you stay,” he murmurs and I can tell I’ve broken him. It’s such a terrible feeling I can’t even begin to describe. Then again, he’s also broken off a chunk of me and I fear it’s the first piece of many.
“I don’t think I can. I don’t think you really want me here, and it’s good you’ve realized this now.”
“Logan, I really need you here. You’re good with Joey.”
“You’re better for him. You know what he needs, not me, not the nanny who isn’t you.”
“Logan.” He stands, punctuating my name with all six-feet-whatever of him.
“What?” I follow suit, standing to lean over the coffee table like we’re about to engage in a gun fight.
He lets out all of his hot air as he deflates a few inches and turns his palms up. “I don’t hate you. Actually, it’s quite the opposite. I want you stay, not because you look like you’re about to cry, but because we all want you here. No one else came knocking on that door except for you. That was for a reason, because you click. I don’t entirely get your style, or the way you talk to me like you’ve known me forever and have the right, but I needed to hear that. I don’t need a nanny. I need help, plain and simple. If you want to be friends, I need that too. And I like my biscuits plain,” he tacked on and sniffed. “Can you deal with that?”
“Whatever you say. Eat your breakfast. I have to change the laundry over.” I turn around and leave him there, knowing it’s cruel and childish.
I’d wanted to be a part of this. I signed a paper agreeing to it. I’d told my mother I could do this. I’d changed everything for this, and for what? To live in another place where I felt unwelcome even though Chris claimed I was.
He’s a fucking mess. I feel like I’ve been dragged down with him. What I’m really mad about is that I have no idea how to fix this. Going back upstairs to tell him everything was good and I would stay wouldn’t change a thing. His kid was still going to miss the hell out of him. Grumpy was only going to get worse. Chris was going to work himself into an early grave. And me? I’d have to stand there and watch it all happen because I wasn’t welcome to help, not really, not when Chris secretly hated the fact I was doing everything that he should be doing.
He wanted a friend? Bullshit. He didn’t want anyone near his little bubble.
He wanted me to stay? Like a hole in his head.
He liked his biscuits plain? Who the fuck does that?
But a couple of hours later, when the dust had settled and I knew I had to surface before I screamed, I found the family of three sitting around the coffee table, eating and watching the news. Joey’s face lit up. Biscuit crumbs ringed his mouth. He got up and hugged me around the waist, and it was like a sign from the powers that be.
Joey isn’t enthusiastic over the food, although I know he likes my breakfast just fine because his plate is dirty and empty. He simply says, “You folded them right.”
The kid is excited I folded his underwear right because he’s a neat freak and that matters to him, and by extension I now matter to him. You never knew with kids. They’re weird little critters. Every last one of them.
I look to Chris. His eyes are no longer angry or shamed. They’re warm and accepting as he nods to me and takes another drink of his coffee. Whatever strangeness is between us has been put on the back burner because Joey is happy. That is what matters to Chris, and again by extension I now matter to him.
“Glad I could help, buddy,” I say into Joey’s hair.
“I am too,” Chris murmurs. He smiles and closes his eyes, resting his head against the back of the sofa.
Joey tugs on my arm until I lean down for him. “Dad’s gonna stay home with us today. Isn’t that cool? The whole day.”
“Sure is,” I whisper back.
And it was very cool. Chris instantly begins to doze off, more relaxed than I’d seen him all week. Joey goes to his dad and curls up under his arm, buzzing with delight that only a child can keep bottled up inside them. I have never seen a child so excited and content to sit with his father while he sleeps. It’s one of the most beautiful things I have ever witnessed.
Fucking hell, I have to stay. I’m hooked on this family.
Especially when Grumpy glances over at me and says, “You make good biscuits, Fudgie. I’ll take another.”
“Why yes, master. Anything you want,” I reply in my best southern accent.
With his eyes closed, Chris’s lips tug up with a smile, making my heart do this little pitter patter shit that I thought I left behind in junior high. Grumpy just holds his plate out to me and says, “Well? Do I have to crawl over there and get it myself?”
To be continued…