Page 24

“Hmm?” I asked.

He nodded more aggressively this time, gesturing past me.

I glanced behind me and realized I was standing right in front of the refrigerator, blocking the water dispenser. I stepped to the side, mentally beating myself up.


“Oh, right, of course. Well, I think I’m done here, so I’ll see myself out,” I stated, scrambling to grab my binder. “Have a good afternoon.”

He didn’t reply, but that wasn’t shocking. I was quickly learning that this new Greyson didn’t have nearly as much to say as the old one.



Eleanor had a way of staring and standing in front of me for too long, to the point that it was uncomfortable. It had to be uncomfortable for her, too, yet still, she kept staring as if she didn’t care about the awkwardness of it all.

I also hated how she stared. She stared as if I were the saddest man alive. I wished she’d stop playing the tiniest violin whenever she looked my way. It was irritating. Whenever she awkwardly gawked, she looked at me as if I were a sad puppy from a damn Sarah McLachlan commercial.

I wasn’t a sad puppy.

Just a not-so-happy man.

The weekends were hard for me, seeing how there wasn’t as much work to keep my mind busy. Plus, the girls were always at Claire and Jack’s house. Most of the time I tried to travel because being in different places made it harder for me to overthink too much, but sometimes travel wasn’t an option and I was left home alone.

My home was eerily silent. It was always weird when it was so quiet, because there had been a point in time when all I ever heard were loud voices laughing. Sometimes I swore the echoes of the laughter still bounced off the walls, though, truthfully, I was probably just hoping the echoes lingered.

There were a million things I missed about Nicole, but her laughter had to be at the top of the list. She’d laughed in a way where tears always streamed down her face, no matter what. Nicole found everything so ridiculously funny, and she could make even the grumpiest person crack a smirk.

That was her superpower: making people happy.

It was no wonder that after she’d left this place, everything had felt a little darker. She had taken that light away with her.

My phone dinged, and there was a ninety-nine percent chance it was Landon checking in on me. Even when I told him to stop doing it, he always did.

I was somewhat thankful for that.

Even though I’d been a shitty friend for quite a few months, it was nice to know that Landon didn’t take it personally.

Landon: Wanna grab a beer?

Me: Are you even in town?

Landon: I can get a private plane out to Chicago, no problem.

Me: Ha. Don’t waste your money.

When the house was empty, and there were no more emails or contracts to check and double-check, I knew I was at my worst. I went for a jog on my treadmill to try to clear my head, but still, that never really did much to slow my thoughts, because the moment I stopped running, everything came rushing back to me.

She used to run, too.

She used to run, and bake, and smile.

She used to laugh, and dance, and love out loud.

She used to be everything to me.

And she was gone because of me.

On the nights when it was too much, like it was that evening, I allowed myself to crack. I fell apart when no one was looking, because it was easier to be broken when no one was around to feel bad for you.

I didn’t want people’s pity.

I didn’t want their sincere apologies.

I didn’t want their words of encouragement.

I just wanted my wife back.

So, that Saturday night, I walked to Karla’s room, ignored the Do Not Enter sign on her closet door, and I opened it, which opened a world to everything that was Nicole.

Covering the walls were dozens and dozens of photographs of Nicole with the girls and me. There were a million moments frozen in time, pictures that captured their smiles, their laughs, our happiness.

Karla had set a chair in her closet and hung fairy lights throughout the space. On the floor were articles of Nicole’s clothing, and I could tell my daughter had sat in the space not too long ago, because they were freshly sprayed with her mother’s favorite perfume.

I shut off the main light source in the bedroom so only the fairy lights shone above me. Then, I sat down on the chair and picked up a black hoodie. Nicole had worn it to bed when she was too cold, which had seemed to always be the case. I remembered pushing her cold feet away from me almost every single night before giving in and allowing her to freeze me.

I pulled the hoodie to my face and took a deep breath as I shut my eyes.

“Grey…” Her breathy voice spoke my way.

I squeezed it in my hands as if I were somehow holding on to her.

“It’s okay, it’s okay.” I hadn’t known why those were the words to leave my lips, but they were all that had come to mind.

I held the garment as if she was somehow still there with me.

She shook her head. “No. The girls.”

My hands were turning red from how hard I was gripping on to that hoodie, but I couldn’t let go.

I was holding on to a ghost, a memory, a story of my past.

And then I fell apart.

When it all became too much, when my thoughts overpowered me, I left Karla’s room and went to pour myself a glass of whiskey.

I stood in front of the fireplace, watching the flames as I sipped the brown liquor.

I tried to shake Nicole from my mind, but when I did my girls entered my head, and that made me sadder. It reminded me of what my mistake did to their lives. Thinking about them reminded me of how I changed their world forever.

So I thought about Eleanor Gable.

The girl who stared at me for too long, and really liked uncomfortable situations.

Those thoughts weren’t as heavy as all my others.

So, I let them stay.



If you had told me five years earlier that my next employer would be Greyson East, I would’ve called you a liar. Heck, if you told me that a week earlier, I would’ve laughed so hard in your face that tears would’ve rolled down my cheeks. But, there I was, standing in Greyson East’s dining room, meeting his children for the first time ever.

Claire was a saint to me that Monday morning. She came over bright and early, ready to teach me the ins and outs of her granddaughters.

“I can’t thank you enough for helping me out,” I told Claire as she set the table for breakfast. “It means the world to me.”

“Oh, darling, it’s no big deal, and after all the nannies that had come before you, I feel like this is tradition. I’m just hoping you last a bit longer than the others did, that’s for sure. You know what they say—seventh time’s a charm!”

I laughed. “I don’t think people really say that.”

“Well, they should. Seven is a lucky number. So, let’s meet the girls!” Claire then turned and hollered toward the back rooms. “GIRLS! BREAKFAST!”

Well, at least Claire seemed down-to-earth in an oversized house with too many rooms and not enough people.

“I swear, these girls are going to try to bully you into letting them sleep in. Don’t be afraid to pull them by their pigtails,” Claire said when no girls appeared. “Wait right here. I’ll be back.”

As she hurried off in the direction of the girls’ bedrooms, I took a deep breath.

Man, I was nervous. I’d never been nervous meeting my employer’s children, but this felt a bit different. I felt oddly unprepared.

“Grandma, I just don’t get why I have to go to school every week,” a little voice moaned and groaned as the speaker stomped her way toward the dining room. As she turned the corner, she looked up to me. “Who are you?” she asked before plopping down in front of her cereal bowl. Lorelai was dressed in mismatched pajamas. She was wearing the most vibrantly colored stripes and polka dots, and she had bright scrunchies in her hair. On her back were huge butterfly wings. She looked like an old-school Rainbow Brite ad.

“That is your new nanny,” Claire explained. “Say hello, Lorelai.”

“Hello, Lorelai,” the little girl mocked, making me smile.

“Hi, it’s nice to meet you. I’m Eleanor, but you can call me Ellie if you’d like.”

“Okay.” Lorelai shrugged and went straight into eating her food.

“After you finish your meal, you have to take a quick shower, okay, Lorelai? Because you can’t be late to school again,” Claire remarked, sitting in the chair beside her granddaughter. “Plus, unlike last week, you aren’t going to put up a fight about your clothing choices.”

“I just want to dress like a rainbow, Grandma. Let me live,” Lorelai groaned, shoveling the spoon into her mouth.

She had truly said the words Let me live. I almost died laughing.

“Where did you hear that from?” Claire questioned. “Let me live?”

“Karla said it to Dad the other day.”

“Sounds about right,” Claire remarked. “But as far as your dress code, we’re going to pick out some tamer clothes for you to wear today.”

“I don’t know what tamer means, Grandma, so whatever I pick out will be fine,” Lorelai stated matter-of-factly.

Claire moved in closer to me. “Lorelai is the brightest personality you’ll find in this place. She’s sassy, funny, and so easy to love, but boy will she push your buttons some days.” She turned to her granddaughter. “Lorelai, what do you think about Eleanor being your new nanny for a while?”

She cocked an eyebrow, holding her spoon in the air. “Is she gonna let me wear whatever I want?”

“No, probably not,” Claire said.

“Will she let me eat chocolate chips for breakfast?”

“No, probably not,” Claire echoed.

“Will she color with me?”

“Yes,” I cut in. “I can do that.”

Lorelai shrugged and went back to eating. “Okay, that’s fine.”