Page 18

TO: [email protected]

DATE: September 26, 5:32pm

SUBJECT: Re: Re: College

Shit. I made plans with my roommate Friday night. Saturday afternoon around 2?


FROM: [email protected]

TO: [email protected]

DATE: September 27, 7:11am

SUBJECT: Re: Re: Re: College

I have to take the kids to karate. Sunday night?

FROM: GreyHoops87[email protected]

TO: [email protected]

DATE: September 27, 8:01pm

SUBJECT: Re: Re: Re: Re: College

I have a club meeting that night.


We’ll figure something out.

Just miss you, is all.


FROM: [email protected]

TO: [email protected]

DATE: September 28, 7:22am

SUBJECT: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: College


I miss you, too.



We’ll figure something out.




We tried our best, but it was a struggle. As the weeks and months went on, Greyson and I kept missing each other, and even though we tried our best to keep in contact, life made it harder. Our schedules clashed, our timing was off, and it always felt as if we were just one second behind.

Our emails got shorter.

Life became busier.

Greyson and I each lived our lives on different timelines.

I held on to my promise to Mom to keep finding reasons to smile, though living with my father made it a little harder. He was still drowning, and I swore each day he pushed me further away. We were evolving in different ways, and the close bond we’d once shared was slowly diminishing.

Each day that passed, I kept finding my smiles. Each day that passed, I always had conversations with Mom, filling her in on the ups and downs of my life.

Even though some days were tough, I was finding a new form of happiness.

Because that was all I’d ever wanted to be: happy.

Just like the dragonflies buzzing by, every now and then Greyson East would cross my mind, and without any more thought than that, I’d smile. I never thought too deeply about him being on my mind. I just let the thoughts linger for however long they needed to. I learned to appreciate him somehow coming back to me, in a way. The best part of memories is how they can reappear from the most random things. I’d think of him when I saw red licorice, or whenever I flipped past a kung fu movie on television, or thought about the most defining moments of my life, he’d always show up during those moments of reflection.

I’d always be thankful for the memories and the way he’d held me up during the darkest moments of my life when all I had wanted to do was drown.

I also made a promise to myself that if life ever brought us back to each other, if the stars aligned and somehow our paths cross once more, I swore, like the waves on the shore, I’d completely crash into him.

Part II

“Love isn’t a state of perfect caring. It is an active noun like struggle.

To love someone is to strive to accept that person

exactly the way he or she is, right here and now.”

-Fred Rogers



Illinois, 2019

Riley Larson was turning five years old in two months, and I hadn’t stopped thinking about it. I’d been thinking about her turning five since the day I met her. Most people were excited when a child turned five. It meant they were off to school to learn and grow and become more of the person they were meant to be. To me, though…to me it felt like a kiss of death.

Because, when Riley turned five, that meant she was off to kindergarten, and what was the point of a nanny when a child was in kindergarten all day?

For after-school activities? That was when a parent brought in a babysitter, not a nanny. Soon enough I’d be replaced by a thirteen-year-old girl who would gladly accept twenty bucks to watch Riley.

I’d been dreading the day Riley’s mother, Susan, asked me to meet up with her for brunch to talk while her husband had a ‘daddy and me’ day with Riley. Nothing good ever came from brunch conversations with your boss, except for the bottomless mimosas I was gulping down to tame my nerves.

“I really am sorry, Eleanor. You have been nothing but a saint to our family since we took on your services five years ago. I mean, heck, you’ve been with us since Riley was four months, and there’s no way we could’ve survived without you. It’s just that with Riley going off to kindergarten next year…” Her words trailed off as she readjusted herself in her chair.

She was so nervous. I assumed it was her first time ever having to let someone go. She was struggling to actually say the words.

“I get it, Susan, really. You don’t have to feel bad.”

Her eyes watered over, and she clasped her hands together. “But I do feel bad. You’ve been such a big part of our family for so long, and letting you go is just so hard.”

“Well, you could always get knocked up again.” I was joking, but like, really. Get knocked up again, Susan.

She laughed a “never in the history of ever will I do that again” kind of chuckle before downing her mimosa.

“But honestly, at least we have quite a few more months before school starts,” I commented. I’d take any silver lining I could find, and having that buffer would give me some time to search for new employment.

Then, Susan ripped that gem away from me. She cringed. “Actually, Eleanor, we’ve decided to cut ties earlier. I was able to get Riley into a 4k program this semester, and then in the summer we’re taking a family trip to Italy. When we get back, we figured it might be best to just bring on a babysitter to look after Riley.”


That’s a low blow, Susan.

She’d used the devastating B word.

I’d been wiping her kid’s bum for how many years? And she wasn’t even going to give me a few months to figure things out?

I tried my best to not allow my emotions to overtake me, but I wore my heart on my sleeve. If I was upset or hurt, people could read it on every part of my body. I had no poker face. What I felt was what you saw, and what you saw was what I felt.

I’d gotten that trait from my mother.

“Oh, that’s…wonderful. That will be so great for all of you,” I said.

She frowned. “Yes, I think so. But, here…” She went rummaging through her purse and pulled out an envelope. “I wanted to give you this, you know, to cover the short notice of the job ending.”

She handed me the envelope, and I thanked her. “Really, that means a lot to me.”

“Of course, sweetie. It’s the least we can do. Also, there’s a little slip in there with a reference to one of my family’s closest friends, Claire. They are looking for a full-time nanny for their girls. I already called her and mentioned your name. They are interviewing for the position next week, and I gave you the strongest recommendation. It might be something worth looking into.”

A bit of relief filled me up as those words left her mouth.

Silver linings are back in action.

“Thank you, Susan. Really. That’s more than I deserve.”

“It’s not a problem at all, really.” She sat back in her chair and grinned. “I’m going to need the keys to the house and BMW back now.”

“Oh? I thought the BMW was a goodbye gift,” I joked.

She didn’t laugh this time. She just gave me a tight smile and held her hand out.

Well then.

I handed her the keys, and she stood up from the table after she laying down cash for her part of the bill. “Okay, well, good luck with everything, Eleanor! I wish you the best. Stay warm out there, and Happy New Year!”

She hurried away, leaving me a bit stunned by how fast everything had unfolded.

I picked up the envelope and opened it to see two twenty-dollar bills sitting inside.

Forty dollars.

She’d given me forty dollars after firing me without any notice.

It really was the least she could do.

I pulled out the forty bucks and placed it on the table to cover my half of the bill, feeling annoyed that, on top of everything, she hadn’t even bought my lunch.

I waved the waitress over and tapped my champagne glass. “We’re gonna need another round of mimosas, stat.”



I wasn’t good at being interviewed. I never had been. When I was a teenager and had gotten my first babysitting job for Molly, I’d cried my way through it, actually sobbed in front of Mrs. Lane. She’d patted me on the back, given me a tissue, told me it wasn’t as serious as I was making it out to be, and then said I did a good job. I was fairly sure she’d given me the job only because she’d felt bad for me, mother’s guilt or something.

My interview process for Susan hadn’t been much different, but she’d been only a few months postpartum and a bit delusional, so that had worked in my favor.

Maybe I can cry my way through this one, I thought to myself as I tugged on the bottom of my black skirt.

My thighs were sweaty and rubbing against the folding chair as I sat in the living room of the employer’s home. I didn’t realize the skirt was too short until I’d actually sat down in the chair, and if it had been an inch shorter, I was certain parts that shouldn’t be seen during an interview would’ve been exposed.

I wanted the job, but not that badly.

I kept wondering about the crying option, even though I knew that was ridiculous. A grown woman crying to get her way seemed a bit dramatic. I supposed I would have to suck it up and power through.

There were a few other women sitting around me, interviewing for the same position. They seemed much more confident in themselves than I was, which was alarming. Why weren’t they puddles of sweat? And why had I worn a light blue blouse?

The sweat stains beneath my armpits were disgusting. If I had raised my hand, the whole room would be able to tell exactly how unprepared I was that afternoon.

Thank God for extra-strength deodorant.

I pulled out my cell phone and sent Shay a quick text.

Me: I’m sweating like I stole something. I’m so not prepared for this interview.