“I…” My voice shook as my mind tried to catch up with the words he was speaking. How was that possible? How was that a thing? “I take her to school every day after I drop off Lorelai. I don’t understand how she wouldn’t be attending.”
“You see her go in every day?” he questioned.
“Well, no, because I drop her off a few blocks away like the other nan…” My words trailed off and reality set in.
Oh, my gosh, I am an idiot.
Karla had lied about the other nannies dropping her off blocks away from the school building, and I was the stupid person who’d believed her sob story.
Greyson hadn’t caught on to the realization I’d come to, though. He kept staring at me with a hard glance, waiting for answers. I swallowed hard and explained the situation, looking away from him.
“You’re joking, right?” he said, pinching the bridge of his nose.
“I—I just thought…” I stuttered, feeling as if I’d been fooled by a fourteen-year-old. My face grew warm, and I couldn’t look at Greyson. I was humiliated by my naïve mistake. She had played me. I’d been royally played by a teenager. “I’m so sorry.”
“Sorry doesn’t make up for the fact that she has missed weeks of schooling.”
“How does that even happen, though? Don’t they notify the parent if the student is missing from school for more than a day or two?”
He grunted. “That’s what I’m looking into now. Until then, go retrieve Karla from her room and bring her in here so the three of us can talk this through.”
“Yes, of course.”
I hurried out, feeling a sharp pain in my gut from my anger with Karla. I went out of my way to treat her kindly, to make her comfortable, yet this was the result I received. The closer I got to her bedroom, the more upset I became. Greyson had blown up at me because of her lies.
Then my emotions shifted to worry.
If she hadn’t been going to school, where had she been?
What was she doing?
Were there drugs involved? Alcohol?
Oh, great, now I was angry and worried. I wondered if this was what it was like to be a parent, feeling every single emotion all at once. It was exhausting. Each emotion came in like a wave crashing against the shore, and I wasn’t sure what to do with all the emotions I was experiencing.
I felt as if there was a split personality disorder going on. I wanted to yell and speak gently at the same time. I wanted to be the good cop and the bad cop. I wanted to be her friend, and her comfort but also the drill sergeant.
There is no middle ground when it comes to parenting teenagers. You always have a feeling of being crazed.
Before Karla could even witness my worry-anger, the biggest knot formed in my gut as I walked into her bedroom only to find it empty.
“Karla?” I called out. No response.
She wouldn’t have gone, would she? Snuck out to go do whatever the heck it was she did during school hours?
I walked farther into her bedroom, toward her ‘Do Not Enter’ closet door, and as my hand landed on the door handle, a sharp shout stung my ears.
“What are you doing?!” Karla barked, forcing me to turn around in haste.
“Karla!” A wave of relief crashed against the shore. “Oh, my gosh, where were you?” I asked, my heart racing.
“The bathroom.” Her eyes narrowed. “Why are you about to go in there? Are you stupid? Can you not read?”
“Don’t call me stupid,” I scolded, sounding more grown up than I actually was. “Your father wants you in his office.”
“Yeah? Well, I’m busy.” She walked over to her desk and went to reach for her headphones to drown me out, but I grabbed them before she could.
“No, you’re not. Now, get going to your father’s office.”
“Because we know.”
“You know what we know,” I stated, narrowing my eyes as I waved a finger at her.
She cocked her eyebrow. “Or I don’t.”
My hands landed against my hips. “Karla, come on. You can drop the act.”
“Listen, I don’t know what you’re talking about, and I’m getting sick of this round-about accusation stuff, so either spit it out or leave my room.”
“You haven’t been to school in weeks, Karla,” Greyson growled, appearing behind me. His eyes were filled with anger, and his chest rose and fell harder each time he took a breath. “That’s what she’s talking about. That’s what we need to discuss.”
He was pissed off, with good reason.
The second the real parent walked into the room, I felt as if I were out of place. I was, after all, just the nanny. For the most part, Lorelai was my main duty.
“I’ll take it from here, Eleanor,” Greyson told me, placing his hand on the doorknob, and stepping back a few steps to make a pathway for my exit.
I took a deep breath and looked toward Karla, who looked both nervous and almost…happy? She seemed pleased with the way she was pushing her father’s buttons.
Then, I turned on my heels and left the room. Greyson closed the door behind me.
Within seconds, the shouting began. The hollering match between those two made me equal parts uneasy and glad.
Even though they were fighting, I was witnessing Greyson doing something I hadn’t been aware he still knew how to do—parent his children. Seeing him engaging with Karla, being so angry demonstrated that somewhere inside his cold, numb heart, he still cared so much. Somewhere within him, he was still concerned.
That had to stand for something.
I left that night before the yelling came to a halt. It wasn’t my right to listen to Karla and Greyson exchange words that were filled with exhaustion and pain. It was clear that they were both hurting, but the only way they could seem to ease their hurts was by shouting at each other.
I woke up the next morning curious about what had gone down between Karla and Greyson. I couldn’t help but wonder where Karla was going each day, what she was doing, and how it had slipped past both Greyson and me.
When I headed over to Greyson’s house, he was already standing on his front porch with a cup of coffee sitting on the railing. He didn’t seem as angry as he’d been the previous night, and I thought maybe sleep had helped him calm down. He did appear eerily calm, though.
It was freezing outside, and all he wore was a black, long-sleeved button-down shirt and a pair of slacks. How was he not an ice cube?
“Eleanor,” he said, his voice tame.
I cringed a little, almost positive I knew what was coming next. “Let me guess…” I sighed, pulling my purse higher on my shoulder. “You’re firing me. I get it. I made a huge mistake. I just have a few things of mine in the house. Then I’ll pack up my things at the guesthouse and be out of your hair in a few minutes.” I started walking past him and was taken aback as his hand landed on my forearm, stopping me.
My eyes drifted to his touch, and his gaze did the same thing before we looked up at each other. It felt as if a bolt of electricity shot throughout my entire body, leaving nothing but chills.
Oh. What was that?
I wondered if he felt them, too.
He quickly dropped his hold on me and cleared his throat. “Sorry. I just…” He took a step backward and sighed, crossing his arms. “Good morning.” His words threw me for the biggest loop known to mankind.
I raised an eyebrow. “Good…morning?”
Then, he just stared at me, and I stared at him. My eyes darted back and forth for a moment, uncertain what was next for our conversation.
“Is there something I can help you with…?” My voice was low and confused.
“You’re not fired.”
“Oh, but I thought—”
He nodded. “I know, but you’re not.”
“Then what is it? Is there something else you wanted to say?”
“No. Yes. I mean…” He took a deep breath and released it slowly. Everything about Greyson seemed so complex. It was as if his heart was constantly battling his mind, making it impossible for him to really express himself wholly. “I owe you an apology.”
“For snapping at you yesterday about Karla. It was unprofessional,” he stated, brushing his hand against the back of his neck, avoiding eye contact.
“Oh, that. Well, yes, it was,” I told him matter-of-factly. “But it was also understandable. I would’ve reacted poorly to that news, too. I just hope you know I had no clue about any of it, Greyson. I truly thought I was doing the right thing.”
He nodded, he and didn’t correct me for calling him by his first name. Maybe he was too dazed and confused from last night’s falling out that he didn’t even notice my error.
“Did you find out where she was going each day?” I asked.
He shook his head and turned his back to me, looking out toward the rising sun. “No. She wouldn’t say, but I did find out she forged my signature on some paperwork, saying the family was on vacation for two months. The school even gave her all her homework ahead of time, and she’s been doing it all. I just…”
His voice trailed off, and his shoulders rolled forward.
His sadness was so loud that morning.
“She’s smart, you know?” he told me. “Thorough—like her mother. She covered all the bases. She must have had this planned before you were even hired to nanny for us, because it had been in the works for some time. I just don’t know why.”
“Did you ask her why?”
“No.” He turned back my way with his arms crossed. “I just snapped.”
He knew that was the wrong thing to do, too. I saw it, the guilt of his reaction.
“You worry about her.”
When he looked up to me, his eyes told me a story his lips didn’t dare speak. Those eyes looked grayer that morning. Sadder, too. The previous night must’ve been hard for him; his stare told that story, the tale of a broken soul.