“So, you’ll have your own set of keys to come and go throughout the house. In the foyer, you’ll see the keys to the car needed to help get the kids to school. Thank you for getting me all the paperwork I asked you for. We’re in the process of adding you to the insurance plan,” Allison told me as we walked into the house. “Lorelai is allergic to shellfish, and Karla wouldn’t touch a vegetable even if her life depended on it. Mondays are always spaghetti for dinner, no matter what. That’s an important one. No penne, not lasagna, just spaghetti. Trust me, it matters. Otherwise, you can get as creative as you’d like for meal plans.
“There’s a no-sugar policy that is in place for weekdays, but when they go to their grandparents’ on the weekend, it’s a free-for-all. Come Monday morning when it’s time to wake the girls, you can blame Claire if the kids are in a sugar coma. Over here is Lorelai’s room, and across the way is Karla’s. Down the hall to the left is the spare bedroom where you’ll stay if Greyson is working late or out of town. And over here…” She clicked and clacked in her heels as she powerwalked through the home, and I tried my best to keep up with her. She showed me the kitchen, the second bathroom, the dining room, the family room, the living room—not to be confused with the family room—and a million other places while tossing other details my way.
The more she spoke, the more overwhelmed I became. Shuffling through my purse, I quickly pulled out my cell phone, opened my notes app, and started typing frantically, trying to absorb all of the information being thrown at me. Allison glanced over her shoulder and smiled.
“I’m guessing I should’ve told you I have a binder with all of this information included. Don’t worry, I’m just going over the basics. This is the kind of job where things kind of fall into place the more you do it.”
“For sure. It’s just a lot, that’s all.”
“The Easts are a lot, especially lately. I want you to know that this is a big job. Nannying alone is hard, but nannying for this family is even tougher. It comes with its own challenges. I want to make sure you’re up for the long days and sometimes longer nights.”
I wasn’t certain I was up for it, to be honest. It all seemed a bit much for me. “I have to admit, I was a bit surprised that I was offered the position.”
“I have no doubt you’ll be great. I’ve been with Mr. East for a very long time, and I have to believe he knew what he was doing when he hired you. Then again, you’re the seventh person I’ve given this talk to in the past ten months, so I could be wrong again.”
She continued showing me through the house, and then we stopped in front of a door. She gestured toward it, lowering her voice. “That’s Mr. East’s office. He’s probably in there now. Most of the time while he’s home, he’ll be inside those four walls, working. If the door is closed, you are forbidden to enter.”
“And if it’s open?” I asked.
She gave me a baffled look. “Oh, no—it’s never open.” She continued the tour of the house and once we covered everything, she took me to the kitchen, and handed me a large three-ring binder filled with paperwork. “This should help you a bit. I put together a complete guide on how to conquer the Easts’ home.”
I flipped through it, impressed by the attention to detail. “Wow, this is amazing. I’m surprised you don’t have this position.”
“Trust me”—she smirked—“Mr. East couldn’t afford me if he wanted me to nanny for his children.”
She made it sound like $65,000 was chump change.
Funny given I felt as if I’d won the lottery with that level of income while she talked as if it was a piece of gum on the bottom of her shoe.
Perspective, I guess.
“Before I go, I wanted to touch base with you on a sensitive subject,” Allison commented. “It’s about the girls, mainly Karla.”
“When the car accident happened a few months ago, the whole family was in the vehicle. They all suffered injuries, but Karla was tossed from the backseat through the window because she didn’t have her seat belt on.”
I gasped, covering my mouth. “Oh, my gosh.”
“She, um, struggles with walking sometimes. Due to the way she landed, she had to have surgery on her left hip, and there’s a bit of a difference in the length of her legs. So, she limps. It’s pretty noticeable, but we try our best to not call attention to it. Karla will, though. She’ll try her hardest to make you uncomfortable. There are also the scars.”
She nodded. “Her face was cut up pretty badly. When she went flying from the car, she slammed face first against a tree before hitting the ground. There’s no way to get around it. You’ll notice the markings, but please try your best to not have an outward reaction. Karla feeds on that. It will make things much harder for you.”
She smiled. “If it makes you less worried, Lorelai is an utter delight.”
“Such a big part of me is hoping she was named after Gilmore Girls,” I joked.
“One hundred percent named after Lorelai Gilmore. Nicole wouldn’t have had it any other way.”
That was pleasing to me. At least Greyson had married a smart woman.
Allison stood up straighter. “Okay, I think that’s everything. I’m going to head out now, but go ahead and make yourself at home. Get used to the property. Mr. East knows you’re here today, so don’t feel like you aren’t allowed to wander around a bit. If you need anything, my cell number is on the contact list in the book, or you can email me. If nothing comes up, I hope your first day goes well. Claire will be with you Monday to make sure the transition goes smoothly.”
I must have had my non-poker face on, because as Allison grabbed her coat and purse to leave, she gave me a light squeeze on the shoulder.
“You’re going to be fine, Eleanor. Mind over matter. You got this. Let’s touch base later this week so I can check in on how things are going.”
“Sounds great. Thanks, Allison.”
After she left, I took a deep breath and flipped through a few pages in the binder. Then, I did a once-through of the house, familiarizing myself with whose room was where. There was something so unsettling about the quietness of Greyson’s home. It was so dark with an odd gloomy feeling attached to it, haunting almost. I didn’t mean dark as in the lighting situation, rather it was the energy level. There was such a heaviness in the space.
The place felt like a house, not a home.
If I hadn’t known any better, I wouldn’t have believed a family lived there at all.
It felt so abandoned, almost like a memory frozen in time.
That might’ve just been my own thoughts, due to knowing about the tragedy that had taken place in the lives of the individuals who lived there. With the number of books I’d read, it wasn’t inaccurate to say my mind wandered toward the dramatics.
Perhaps it just reminded me of my father’s home after Mom passed away. It had been as if he and I were both frozen in time. That was ultimately the reason I left and went off on my own—the walls had been suffocating me.
I walked back into the kitchen, flipping through the binder, completely taken aback by the girls’ schedules. Between school, swim lessons, karate, piano lessons, physical therapy, and grief counseling, I wasn’t sure how they found the time to live even a little.
I leaped out of my skin at the sound of my name and turned to see Greyson standing behind me with an empty glass in his hand. He was dressed in a business suit complete with a tie, which was so strange to me.
Who wore a suit and tie in their own home?
I hardly wore pants when I was home alone.
“Oh, Greyson, hi. Sorry I’m still here. Allison was just giving me a tour and she gave me permission to look around a bit more.”
“She made me aware.”
Wow. He had responded immediately, unlike the first time I saw him. I called that progress.
I smiled at him, he didn’t smile back, and that felt like the oddest thing in the world. The old Greyson had been full of smiles.
“It’s a beautiful home,” I stated, unsure what else to talk about. “It’s massive. I swear it’s like ten times the size of mine and Shay’s apartment.” He blankly stared as I shifted from foot to foot. “I love the décor,” I blurted out, and I hated myself the second the words left my lips. Just walk away, Eleanor. Don’t be awkward. “Those throw pillows in your living room are to die for. Where did you get them?”
“The interior designer chose everything,” he replied dryly.
“Oh, right, of course. My interior designer is normally the clearance section at T.J. Maxx,” I joked. “Or on special occasions, Target.”
He didn’t laugh, probably because I wasn’t funny.
I wondered when was the last time he’d laughed.
Did he ever find anything funny anymore?
We kept staring at one another in the most uncomfortable silence, though I didn’t feel as if I could pull myself away from it. I probably stared at him too long, but how could I not? I’d gone fifteen-some years without looking at him. It was understandable that I wouldn’t be able to turn away quickly.
The awkwardness of it all finally came to a halt when Greyson cleared his throat.
“I came for water.”
“Oh?” I stared at him like an idiot, wide-eyed like a deer in headlights, waiting for his next words. I stood still as if he were going to expand on his interest in water. Was he offering me a drink? Were we going to sip water and catch up on things? Was I finally going to be able to ask him how he’d become the CEO of his father’s company at such a young age? What had happened to his father?
His stare narrowed, and his lips turned down in a displeased fashion. He nodded once.