“Not everything in life is about work,” I scolded.
“Maybe not for you, but it is for me.”
“You didn’t want to be him,” I told him, shaking my head in disbelief. “All your life, you didn’t want to be like your father.”
“My father was a hardworking man. I was a child who didn’t know the sacrifices he made to run this company in order to provide for his family.”
“That’s a lie.”
“Eleanor, stop,” he said, almost as if he were begging me to back down because I was tapping into sensitive territory, but I couldn’t do it. I was going to push him. I was going to keep pushing until he woke up from this deep somber he was in. I was going to keep shoving him with my words until reality hit him.
“Your father abandoned you,” I told him. “He walked away, just like your mother, and they left you alone.”
“Eleanor.” His voice was low, and his eyes were intense. I was doing it. I was getting under his skin, and I wasn’t going to stop.
“You told me repeatedly how alone you felt after your grandfather died. You told me time and time again how you hated sitting in your house, because there was no one there for you. Greyson, this isn’t you. This isn’t the person you wanted to become. This isn’t who you are supposed to be.”
“You don’t know me,” he barked, his face turning redder and redder each second that past. “You don’t know who I’ve become.”
“Yes, but I do know who you were,” I promised. “And I can still see that boy in those eyes sometimes, fighting like hell to come back to life.”
“You don’t know anything,” he argued.
“I know you miss your wife.”
His jaw went slack, and he narrowed his eyes. That hit him hard. Those cold, gray eyes… “You should stop speaking.”
“Yes, you’re right, I should, but I won’t because I get it. I know you miss her, Greyson, and I know when you look at your daughters, you see so many parts of her in their eyes, and that has to be hard. I’m sure sometimes it feels as if grief is swallowing you whole, but you can’t allow it to consume you. You have two beautiful daughters who are looking toward you for guidance and love, and the last thing they need is this, this monster version of you that randomly shows up and rocks their world sideways.”
Even though my voice trembled, I stood tall before Greyson. I knew this wasn’t him, this ghost of a man. Sure, we’d missed a few years, but deep down inside of his darkness was the boy I’d once loved so much, the gentle boy, the kind boy, the boy who’d saved me.
I had to believe my Grey still lived inside of this man. Otherwise, the world was lost.
“Well, aren’t you a know-it-all,” he sarcastically remarked.
“No, but I know enough.”
He huffed at my words, obviously irritated that I had the nerve to speak to him in such a manner. “Then, please, Eleanor, do tell me. It seems you have been sent to me to tell me about all my faults. You’re here to throw your truths into my face about me and my family, so tell me! Tell me what it is that my children need?!”
“Their father!” I cried, my voice cracking as I marched toward him. I still wasn’t backing down, which somewhat surprised me. Maybe because this felt personal. Maybe it was because I knew what it felt like to be those girls, because all the words I’d never yelled at my father were now pouring out of my soul. So, I couldn’t back down, because my heart was pounding too hard in my chest. I couldn’t back down, because my soul knew how important it was to help Greyson find his way home. We were face-to-face, his breaths heavy with annoyance, my chest puffing in and out from my irritation at him being so shut off. His hot exhalations hissed against my skin, and each time he blinked, I waited for his stare to return to mine.
There was such a heavy tension in the space. Each inhale felt harder than the last, and my heartrate never took the time to slow down. I would’ve kept the intensity going, too, if it wasn’t for one small thing.
Every so often, he’d blink, and he’d look absolutely shattered. As if every single piece of his soul was being set on fire.
Out of all of the emotions that sat within Greyson the one that shone through the most was his exhaustion. He seemed on the brink of exhaustion as he looked at me.
For the first time since I stormed into his office, I studied his face; the curves, the creases, the lines.
His lips…the way they turned upside down into sadness.
His eyes...the way they told the history of his past.
I backed down.
I was the one to break, because it was clear there was nothing left to shatter within him.
“It’s you, Greyson…” I looked away and brushed my thumb against my chin. My shoulders rounded forward in defeat and I shook my head gently. “They just need you.”
The room filled with silence as he kept his stare on me.
I took a step backward. “I’m sorry,” I whispered. “I was out of line.”
“Yes, you were.”
“I just wanted to say—”
“You’re fired,” he blurted out.
“It’s clear that you have a problem with the way my household is run, therefore this is not the right match for us all.”
My chest tightened as panic started rushing through my entire being. “But, I mean, I know I was out of line…”
“Exactly, and that’s all there is to it. Strike three.” He turned his back to me, and lowered his head as he gave me one last order. “Close the door on your way out.”
“Happy birthday, sweetheart!” Claire exclaimed that afternoon as Lorelai came racing out of her bedroom toward her grandmother. She had come over to pick up the girls for their weekend get together. Lorelai leaped into Claire’s arms for a tight hug as I stood there stunned.
“It’s Lorelai’s birthday?” I asked as Claire released her granddaughter and told her to go pick up her weekend bag. “I had no clue. We could’ve celebrated.”
“Yes, she’s six today.” She glanced toward Greyson’s office. “How’s he doing today? I’ve been calling him all day but he’s been ignoring my calls.”
I stood in the living room, still stunned from my interaction with Greyson. “He actually fired me.”
“What?” Her eyes widened with concern. “Over what?” I explained to her what had happened, and she took a deep breath. “Oh, I see. Poor Lorelai.”
“She was heartbroken.”
“Everyone in this house is heartbroken,” she agreed. “I should’ve known this would be a tough time for everyone. I was just truly hoping it would bring Greyson closer to his girls, instead of pushing him away.”
“What do you mean?”
“Today’s the one year anniversary of the accident.” She lowered her head and sniffled. “I felt it over the past few weeks, Greyson retreating a little. I know he’s been cold since it happened, but I felt him getting colder.”
I swallowed hard, feeling awful, knowing I’d just snapped on him while having no idea about his personal struggles. Of course he was struggling—how could he not?
“I had no clue,” I confessed. “I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t have pushed him.”
“It’s not your fault. You had no idea.”
I heard her words, and yet, a tightness still remained in my chest. I felt nothing less than guilt.
When I had stormed into Greyson’s office, I’d entered not only as a concerned nanny, but as a daughter who had many times been swallowed by anger at a father who’d emotionally abandoned me. I had gone in without a clear head and said things I shouldn’t have said. I’d barged into his space, and snapped not only for Lorelai, but for me, for every child who felt invisible to their parents.
While I had been hollering about the unjust situation at hand, I hadn’t had a clue about the storm Greyson was battling on his own.
Claire placed a hand on my shoulder and gave me a light squeeze. “You’re apologizing for pushing him, but I feel like that’s what needs to happen. Greyson needs a wake-up call from someone. He needs to be pushed, so thank you for that. Thank you for forcing him to break out of his slumber.”
“I don’t know if it helped him at all, and it doesn’t matter much anyway since he fired me.”
Claire gave me a smile and shook her head back and forth a bit. “Give it the weekend. He just needs to get through it, that’s all. One day at a time. You’ve outlasted all the other nannies by months, and that has to count for something. So, don’t go dusting off your resume just yet. Let some of the smoke clear.”
I should’ve headed home after Greyson fired me. I should’ve been curled up on my couch with a novel and tea, but I couldn’t do it because that felt wrong. I couldn’t wrap my head around leaving Greyson on what would be the loneliest, hardest night of his life.
He had stayed on the phone with me for hours the night my mother passed away, never once walking away. I owed him the same thing he’d given me—companionship.
After some time had passed, I walked to Greyson’s front door and knocked, but he didn’t answer, even though I could see him through the window. He stood in the living room, staring at the roaring fire, holding something in his hands.
I knocked once more, and he didn’t move in the slightest.
With a deep breath, I took out my keys and unlocked his front door. I was already fired—
what was the worst he could do now? Call the cops on me for breaking and entering with the key he’d given me?
I’d take my chances with that.
“Greyson,” I said softly, moving in his direction.
He didn’t react to my voice, not even a flinch, as if he hadn’t heard me.
“Greyson, are you okay?” I walked closer to him, my nerves building up with each step. He turned around slowly, and when I saw his eyes washed over with emotion, my chest tightened.