Late night tonight, so I’m going to keep this short and sweet.
This week’s prompt was:
Use one of the seven deadly sins this week: Wrath, Greed, Pride, Lust, Sloth, Envy and Gluttony.
I chose to reveal Sister Grace’s greed.
P.S. Elaina, you totally beat me to it! LOL
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A Nanny Tale: Week 5
I want to tell you the next morning with Chris was the kind where we lazily snuggled and eventually I got up to make pancakes. But it wasn’t and I’m not sure either of us is ready for that. I’m starting to like Chris a lot more than I used to, and on the opposite side of his mighty wall, he’s beginning to see me in a different light. So we’re working on this thing we’ve got going at a slower pace.
I have yet to give it a label. He’s pretty much terrified to do it too. That’s okay with me.
Actually I woke up to someone calling me; karma for waking up Max yesterday, I suppose.
“Hello?” I whisper and quietly get out of bed so I don’t wake Chris. He doesn’t move an inch. I have a suspicion it was some of the best sleep he’s ever had, because it was damn good on my end too. That’s why I hate to leave before it’s over, but if one of us is going to do it, I would rather it be me. It’s his bed. He’s used to waking up alone in it.
Sabine… It’s not even … Oh fuck, it’s already ten? “Morning.”
“Did I wake you?” She sniggers.
“No, not at all. What’s up, my lady?” Lies. Bed. I want it now.
“This is rather short notice and I’m sure you’ll have to talk to Chris, but my son Gerritt is having a birthday party on Saturday. He’s turning eleven, so all of his schoolmates will be there, but there will be quite a few nannies and their kids as well. I thought it would be good for you to make some friends around here, and if Chris wants to bring Joey, they could make some acquaintances too.” She took a quick breath. “Don’t worry about bringing a gift. It is just a pool party. Bring bathing suits instead.”
Yes is on the tip of my tongue. However, that’s not how this works. “It sounds like fun but I’ll have to talk to Chris. His dad is still in the hospital, we’re not sure what they’re going to do with him yet and Joey is at his grandmother’s house. I’ll have to let you know later today, but thanks for the invite.” God, the possibility of getting out and meeting people yanked my inner social butterfly to attention. Better yet was the chance for Joey to make some friends that weren’t those assholes he went to school with. And Chris… Yeah, he needed to get the hell out of his bubble.
“I completely understand. Don’t forget to call me back. I need to know how many people are coming to prepare food.”
“Will do, Sabine. I’ll talk to you later.”
I put the phone down on the kitchen island to set about making coffee. The smell must have lured Chris from his cave because not ten minutes later he pads barefoot and sleep rumpled into the kitchen.
“Hey.” He adjusts his glasses and scratches his chest.
I have jitters forming in my stomach. What to say? How to act? “Morning.”
He puts a hand on my shoulder as he leans into the fridge in search of sustenance. Such a simple gesture, but the way he does it is beyond comfortable. Hell, the fact that he doesn’t notice he’s doing it is more surprising than anything. “Who were you talking to?”
“Sabine. She invited Joey to her son’s birthday. She invited all of us actually. I told her we have a lot going on, but that I’d talk to you.”
His warm breath skates over the back of my neck as he stands up straight and sets some eggs on the counter. “That was nice of her.”
“It was.” I hand him a bowl to crack his eggs in. He smiles at me. I like this side of him. I really, really do. “Like I said, I know we have a lot going on but I think it’d be nice for Joey to go at least for an hour or so. There are going to be so many kids there, a lot of nannies too. Good chance for him to hook up for playdates or slumber parties or whatever regular children do. It’s been a while since I had one in my care.”
“Scrambled okay?” He turns the stove on and looks at me.
“Yeah.” Well, no since pushing him if he’s going to ignore the idea. He’s a stubborn guy; one thing at a time with him. “It’s probably not a good time. I’ll call her back to tell her to count us out.”
“No. Wait. She wants all of us to go?”
I twist to look at him. The hesitation on his face has nothing to do with extenuating circumstances at home, but from his fear of being in strange, social settings. His fear that people will see him for what he is and they will shun his son because of it. He’s so medieval that sometimes I think he doesn’t know what year it is.
“Um, maybe you could take Joey. Sounds like a nanny thing anyway.” He dips his head as he turns away to the stove.
“She wants all of us to go, Chris. It’s a pool party. There will be other adults. Other men to talk to...”
He gives me this wide eyed look of horror. “Are you trying to set me up?”
“Is this some…”
“Chris, you’re crazy.” I laugh because I can’t help it. “I meant men as in other fathers you could talk to. I’m sure you’re not the only one having difficulties with a nine-year-old boy.” I roll my eyes. “Thought it sounded nice.”
“Oh.” He sighs. His cheeks are flushed as is the back of his neck. Before I can respond, he’s near me again, our forearms brushing as we work side by side. Toast and eggs and words not needed between us. “I don’t need to be set up, okay?”
He’s touching me. He’s so close. He’s looking over at me and I’m trying very hard not to look back. I’m trying to wait. A smile touches my lips at his slightly possessive behavior. “Okay.”
“Okay,” he whispers in a lighter tone and bumps me with his hip. “How do you feel about yard work today?”
“You don’t have a yard.” I peer up at him to see him grinning. “Unless we’re mowing sand.”
“A storm is coming through tonight. I want to store all of the patio furniture and get the potted plants inside. If we don’t, we’ll be picking them up off the beach for the next month. Joey and I call it yard work, sort of our joke.” He claps me on the back and starts cooking the eggs. “We’ll visit dad after we’re done and talk to the doctors. The wait to know is stressing me out.”
“It’ll be okay, Chris. We’ll get through this,” I say without even thinking. We. We’ll get through this. He’s as surprised as I am, but the way he looks at me curls my toes. Apparently, that was exactly what he needed to hear.
“Call Sabine and tell her we’ll be there. I think we could use a break.” He chews on his lip, but there’s a smile there as he makes our breakfast.
I could live every day like this. Toast and eggs. We.
As it turned out, Grumpy’s recovery was going to take longer than expected. He wasn’t too thrilled to hear he’d be taken to a nursing home for his rehabilitation. You’d have thought we were sending him there to die the way he reacted. The nurses already hated him, but kept smiles on their faces for our benefit, and the doctor endured Grumpy’s foul language just like the rest of us.
We thought he would’ve taken the news better after we snuck him some sausage patties from home, but he wasn’t buying it. He wanted out. He wanted to go home. He was also heavily medicated.
At one point he asked us where baby kittens came from. Then he started laughing hysterically. He was too out of his mind to understand. I sort of felt bad for him, but I knew his son would be there when he woke up in a new place. That had to be scary for anyone, especially for a man with no one else to rely on.
After Chris talked with the doctor and signed all of the necessary paperwork, we left Grumpy sleeping and headed over to Chris’ mother’s place. Joey would be getting out of school any minute, so we waited in the living room with Chris’ stepfather. Geoff was a nice enough guy, kind of quiet, but then again I could see why Chris’ mom would choose Geoff’s type after living with Grumpy for all those years.
When Chris’s mother Margo came through the front door, the atmosphere changed. Chris changed. He gets up and hugs his mother tight. She beams at him. “I didn’t know you were coming.”
“Change of plans. They’re putting Dad in a home for recovery and I thought it’d be nice to spend the time off with Joey.”
“How is he? I thought to visit him, but…” She eyes Geoff and smiles sweetly.
Chris squeezes her hand. “He’s fine, although the doctor feels it will be better if we put him in an environment he’s forced to recover in. You know him.”
She smirks and nervously plays with the drawstring of her turquoise colored linen pants. Margo looks like she’s just spent the day yachting instead of tending to her grandson. She is flawless. “I do.”
“Dad!” Joey comes running into the room and smacks against Chris to attack him with a hug.
“Hey, buddy.” Chris ruffles Joey’s hair. He’s mid hug, so he doesn’t see what I do, not yet, but after a quick scan of Joey’s uniform, I meet Margo’s eyes. Her expression goes slack and then she looks at her hands. It isn’t until Chris put Joey at arm’s length to get a good look at him that Margo takes on a defensive stance.
Chris’s brows furrow atop his glasses. He crouches down to brush his fingers over the rips at Joey’s knees. The grass and dirt stains along his shins and the scuffs on his new dress shoes. There is also a small bandage on Joey’s jaw. This is not good. Not good at all.
Joey manages a brave face, a mask most kids can pull off effortlessly. “Gran, did you meet Logan?”
“Not officially,” she says.
Chris’s face reddens. A tightness forms around his eyes. “Joey, who did this to you?”
“Logan’s my new friend. He watches me when Dad is at work.” Joey’s lip trembles.
“Joseph, look at me.” Chris guides his son’s chin to him. “You are not in any trouble, buddy, but I know something happened today. Look at this.” Chris tenderly traces around the bandage. “I need to know who did this to you.”
“I fell,” Joey whispers.
“Down a cliff?”
“At recess.” Tears form in Joey’s eyes. I know what he’s doing; he doesn’t want to add stress to his dad’s life. But he’s hurting. He’s being bullied. He doesn’t realize his dad is willing to do anything for him.
I crouch down next to Chris and take Joey’s hand. “Do you remember what I said a few weeks ago, Joey, how you can tell us anything. You don’t deserve to be treated like someone’s punching bag. You are better than that.” Joey sniffs and tries to pull away. I hold tight to his hand. “Was it those boys, the hall monitors who did this?”
Chris gawks at me. “What hall monitors? What’s going on?”
“They pushed me down at recess and I ran to get away. I tried to climb the fence and I tore my pants,” Joey confesses. “I got a red slip from Sister Grace. I can’t have recess for a week.”
“What?” Chris practically shouts. “Where was Sister Grace when they did this to you? How could she think this was your fault?”
“She was right there the whole time. I saw her before I ran away. In the office, she said I pro… prov…”
“Provoked?” I ask.
Joey nods. “I provoked them because I said they were jerks. They called you bad names, dad.”
Chris shudders. He pulls his son to him. Joey sobs into his neck and clings to his dad for dear life. “It’s okay, buddy. Everything is going to be okay. You are not going back there.”
“Christopher,” Margo gasps. “You know—”
“He is my son, mom. Would you send me back there?” Chris glares up at Margo. “Oh, yeah, you would because I had to go there until I was old enough to go to another school. I know exactly what it’s like. You of all people know how bad it is and I’ve tried to forget how hard it was, how you kept me there, but I’m done.”
Margo sniffs back her guilt. “It is a prestigious—”
“You know what, that’s been my line since he was in kindergarten. That’s what I’ve told myself for years, that I owe my grandfather this, that I owe Joey this. But I’m done. I don’t care about the tuition money. I’ll make it work on my own. He is not going back there and that’s final.” Chris stands with Joey in his arms.
I pick up Joey’s schoolbag. We were leaving. Chris made that very clear. “It was nice to meet you Margo.”
She says nothing as her son storms out of the house and slams the door. Geoff offers me a hand instead. “I’ve been waiting a long time for him to do that, so tell him not to worry about the money. He needs anything, he can call me. It was nice to meet you, Logan.”
I shake Geoff’s hand and give him a tight smile. Margo scowls at me from the other side of the room. “I don’t know who you are, but you seem close enough to my son to talk him out of this. That is Joey’s money and he’s just going to throw it away. That’s his college,” she hisses and throws her scarf on the sofa before she thunders down the hall. This family, I swear, they were born with the drama gene.
“Listen, Logan, Margo isn’t as selfish as she appears. She’s scared is all, because she knows what’s coming next and she never wanted that for Chris. She sure as hell never wanted that for Joey either. But if this is what Chris wants, it’s his life and his son, and we just want them to be happy. So like I said, if he needs me to write him a check for a different school, I’ll do it in a heartbeat.”
I have no idea what he’s talking about. I have no idea what any of this means. Money? This is all about money? Surely not. Chris isn’t like that. Is he? “I’ll pass the message on.”
I walk out to the Tahoe to find Chris in the backseat with Joey, hugging the life out of his child. I don’t say anything as I get into the driver’s seat and start the engine. I don’t say a word the entire way home.
The storm rolled in about an hour after we got home. Chris made macaroni and cheese. Joey ate two bowls while snuggled up against Chris. We watched three hours of Animal Planet because it seemed to calm Joey, and a calm Joey meant a relaxed Chris. By the end of the night, I cleaned up and Chris carried his passed out son to Joey’s room. Eventually I walked down the hall to make sure everything went smoothly.
Joey is tucked into bed, fast asleep and oblivious to anything other than the safety of his dreams. He looks so much smaller and innocent all curled up next to the wall with a stuffed fish against his chest, however, the hefty Charles Dickens novel open on the nightstand gives away the scholarly old soul living inside of him.
Chris puts the book away because Joey has a tendency to roll around in his sleep and sometimes things on the nightstand take a tumble and scare us both awake. We all need a good night’s sleep tonight, and so Chris turns off the light. He stops next to me in the doorway and whispers, “You want to watch a movie in my room?”
I nod and take his offered hand. This time it’s him that leads the way. He’s the one who parts from me first to take off his shoes and his shirt, to change into sweatpants right in front of me like I don’t find the idea of his half naked body attractive and comforting. He acts like we’ve done this many times before.
He tosses me a pair of gym shorts and goes into the bathroom as if this is a routine we created last night and he doesn’t want to make a big deal out of it. What he doesn’t realize: this is huge deal to me.
It’s one thing to comfort someone in their time of need. It’s another thing to become needed. He needs me. As he slips into the bed next to me and pulls the covers over both of us, and I drown in his scent and his warmth, I understand that I need this too. We are the product of convenience, I tell myself because I know this will not last. We are a means to an end, arms that fit around each other when shit gets rough and no one else is around.
We are toast and eggs. One day maybe he’ll want pancakes instead.
“Geoff told me to tell you if you need tuition money, he’ll pay whatever you need,” I blurt because it’s sitting on my chest like a demonic gremlin scratching its talons over my throat. Because I can’t cope with the silence he finds so enticing.
“I bet my mother loved that,” he says to me as if I should know. He rolls to his side and props up on one elbow to look down at me. “What did she say?”
“She’s scared for you, Chris.”
“Oh that’s crap, Logan. What did she really say?”
“She wants me to talk you out of it, whatever that means.” I swallow hard. Whatever goes down hurts my chest. I know another plot twist is coming and I’m not sure I have any tricks left in my bag to deal with it.
“Do you remember when Joey said his gramps pays for his tuition and you freaked out a bit?” Chris brushes my hair away from my face.
“I did not freak out.” But I’m freaking out now. I close my eyes briefly. His touches send shivers over my body.
“You made a face,” he whispers.
My eyes snap open. “Okay, your point?”
“When my gramps passed away, he had a will that divvied up his assets and accounts to all of his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. Max, Mom, Joey and I, and some set aside in case we had any more kids. Because Joey is a minor, my grandfather put his share into a prepared tuition plan with another portion given to him on his twenty-first birthday, and the rest when he turns thirty.”
I fight not close my eyes again as he plays with my hair. “Then what is the problem?”
“There were stipulations to the will regarding Joey’s inheritance. My grandfather loved me, I don’t doubt that for a second, but he was also a very religious man. He donated to Our Sacred Heart for many years because it was his church’s pet project, and as such, he secured Joey a spot there before he was even old enough to walk. If Joey leaves that school, the rest of his tuition will be donated to the school and church and Joey will have to wait until he turns twenty-one to claim the rest of his inheritance. That’s what my mom was talking about.”
I sit up because lying down just doesn’t seem satisfying anymore. My body is buzzing with shared rage for this man, his son and their situation. “And that’s why Sister Grace is trying to get you to pull Joey from the school, so she can get rid of the bad image a homo leaves on her reputation and get Joey’s inheritance to fund many more years of hell for poor children who don’t know any better.”
“Yeah.” Chris scoots up against the headboard. “That’s about it.”
I get it now. I get it more than ever before. What he’s gone through. What he’d endure for his son’s future. Why he doesn’t sleep. And the first thing I can think of, the only way I know how to help… “I have fifteen thousand dollars in my bank account. I want you to take it and put it away for Joey’s college. It isn’t much these days, but it’ll be enough to get him on his feet.”
He pins with a stare I can’t quite decipher. “No. No way, Logan.”
“I’ll put it in your bank myself if I have to. What am I going to do with it, buy another crappy t-shirt or a video game?”
He rolls to his knees, towering over me. “I said no, Logan.”
“He needs it. I want him to have it. It was never mine in the first place.”
He puts his hands on either side of my face. “Absolutely not,” he murmurs. His eyes soften. “That you would even think to…” He takes a deep breath.
“Kind of like you think about him more than yourself? Kind of my job, Chris. Let me make this easier on you.”
“Why do you care so much how I feel?” His eyes glass over as he searches my face.
“Because you’re dying inside and it hurts to watch. Because that kid is amazing and he doesn’t deserve this.” I put my hands around his wrists and draw him near. “You asked me to be your friend, so let me be one.”
“I don’t think you’re my friend anymore, Logan.”
At first his words pain me, but all I have to do is look into his eyes and feel his lips press against mine to know exactly what he means.To be continued…