I knew Greyson would likely be mad at me for pulling her from school, but after everything she had to deal with, she deserved a break.
As we watched the movies, I witnessed a version of Karla emerge that I hadn’t known existed. She sat wide-eyed with her focus on the television screen. I remembered that wonderment when I’d seen the movies for the first time, that excitement, the happiness.
Her lips moved with the dialogue, making it very clear that she’d seen the films dozens of time. She pretty much had it all memorized to a T.
The only times we paused the movies were for bathroom breaks.
It turned out I needed a mental health day, too. A day of magic and adventures, a day of being far-far away from muggles.
Around three, it was time for me to go get Lorelai from school, which was sad, because Karla and I were absorbed in the movies.
Karla started to stand up, and I shook my head. “You don’t have to come. It will be a quick trip.”
She raised an eyebrow. “Dad doesn’t like me being left home alone. He doesn’t trust me.”
“Do you think you’ll be okay?” I asked.
“Of course, I’m not an idiot.”
“Well, okay then. If anything goes drastically wrong, call me. Let me put my name in your phone.”
She handed her phone over. “Wow. You must really want to get fired today.”
I smiled and tossed her cell phone back to her. “I’ll be back in a few.”
I headed off to Lorelai’s school, and when I pulled up to the pickup line, I saw the normally energetic little girl walking with her head down. I quickly put the car in park and headed over to Lorelai.
“Hey, buddy, what’s going on?” I asked, my gut filling with concern.
“Nothing. Just stupid Caroline,” she muttered, looking at a girl to her left who was talking to other kids their age.
“What happened with Caroline?”
Lorelai sniffled as she dragged her backpack against the sidewalk. “She just invited everyone to her super awesome birthday party except for me.”
“What? That’s impossible. I’m sure it was a misunderstanding, honey.”
She shook her head. “No. She said I wasn’t invited because I’m a weird freak who talks to myself.”
Well, that pissed me off.
I stood up straight and looked over to Caroline. Then, I saw her mother call her over in the pickup line. “Wait right here, Lorelai. I’ll handle this.”
I jogged toward the parked car, and called after the woman. “Excuse me! Excuse me!”
The woman perked up a bit, taken aback by my approach. She held her purse close to her side and gave me a tight smile. “Can I help you?”
“Hi, yes. I’m Eleanor, Lorelai’s nanny,” I said, gesturing toward Lorelai, who still had her head down in disappointment.
The woman looked over and grimaced. “Oh, yes, the new nanny. I swear, that family goes through them faster than anyone. You’d think they’d figure out a way to keep someone on board for longer periods of time.”
I ignored her comment. “Yes, well, I just wanted to check in with you about a misunderstanding. It seems everyone in Lorelai’s class was invited to your daughter’s birthday party, except for her, and I’m sure that was just a mistake.”
“Oh, no, it wasn’t a mistake at all,” she said, pursing her lips together like a freaking prima donna. “She’s not invited.”
“What? That doesn’t even make sense. You were just at her birthday party with Caroline. Lorelai is a great girl.”
“Yes, I’m sure she’s fine, but I just don’t think it’s a good idea to have a girl like her at my daughter’s party.”
“A GIRL LIKE HER?!” I hollered. Yes, I hollered at that woman, and I didn’t even care. Her words stung me in a way I didn’t know words could sting. “What in the world is that supposed to mean?”
“It’s nothing to take offense to,” she stated, a bit stunned by my reaction.
“Um, no, that is definitely something to take offense to,” I argued. “What do you mean ‘a girl like her’?”
“Well, sweetheart”—she said it in such a condescending way that it made my skin crawl—“you’ve been around the girl long enough to know she’s odd. Caroline has told me stories of how she talks to herself at recess, and then I witnessed it myself at her party.”
“She’s not talking to herself,” I argued. “She’s talking to her mother.”
The woman cocked an eyebrow. “Her mother?”
“Her dead mother?”
She pinched the bridge of her nose. “Oh gosh, even their nanny is insane. Look, I’m sorry, I really am. I get that the girl has been through some trauma, but that’s not my problem. I reserve the right to pick and choose the type of people who surround my Caroline.”
“Yeah, well, your Caroline was very rude to Lorelai today, calling her a freak.”
“Well, you know what they say—kids will be kids.” She put on her sunglasses and shrugged, enraging me beyond measure. “Now, if you’ll excuse me.” She waved me away like I was nothing.
Then it happened.
My eyes crossed. My vision blurred.
And. I. Snapped.
“No, it’s not kids being kids. It’s a completely inappropriate action, one that should have real consequences! Your child bullied mine. She bullied her, and you are acting like it is completely okay, but I’m not shocked knowing she has a mother like you. That type of behavior doesn’t just pop into a child’s head, it’s taught, and you should be ashamed of yourself! You’re a disgusting human being who is raising a little bitch!”
I shut my mouth, but the words kept dancing in my head.
I’d just accidentally called a little girl a bitch.
I glanced around me and everyone was quiet. They were all staring my way with their mouths agape and their eyes wide open.
Then I looked at Caroline’s mother, who looked as if I’d just taken a crap on her high-heeled shoes. “Your employer will be hearing about this!” she scolded me. “You can count on that!”
Then she placed her daughter into her car and drove away.
I walked over to Lorelai, who was smirking a bit. She looked at me, giggling, and smiled wide. “You’re kind of crazy, Eleanor,” she told me.
She wasn’t wrong.
I put her into the car and buckled her in, then I combed her hair out of her face. “Hey, I just want you to know that you’re special, okay? You’re special, and smart, and beautiful inside and out. If anyone ever tells you anything other than that, they are a liar. Do you understand me? What Caroline told you was nothing but lies. You. Are. Amazing.”
She nodded slowly.
“Can you say that? Can you say you are amazing?”
“I am amazing.” She smiled, and I swore in her smile, I saw young Greyson.
“Yes.” I nodded, tapping her nose. “You are.”
I hopped into the driver’s seat and pulled away from the curb to head back to the Easts’ house.
“What’s a little bitch?”
“It’s a person who isn’t very nice,” I said matter-of-factly. I glanced toward her in the rearview mirror and shook my head. “But don’t tell your father that. I’m pretty sure he’d fire me for that. Okay?”
“Okay.” She went back to staring out the window, and a few seconds passed before I heard her whisper, “I know, Mom. I like Eleanor, too.”
I swore my heart skipped five beats at those words.
We got back home, and in the pile of blankets on the living room floor was Karla watching the fourth Harry Potter movie.
She looked back toward me with an Oreo in her mouth and her eyes widened. “Sorry, I couldn’t wait to start the movie.”
Lorelai’s mouth dropped open. “You’re eating sugar and we’re not at Grandma’s house!” she exclaimed, pointing a finger at her sister.
“Yeah, I know. I needed a mental health day,” she said, stuffing another cookie in her mouth.
“What’s a mental health day?” Lorelai asked.
“It’s when you eat junk food and watch movies all day,” Karla replied.
Lorelai raced over to her sister and lay down, grabbing a handful of cookies for herself. “I need a mental health day, too!”
I smiled at seeing the girls cuddled up together, eating cookies and actually looking as though they were enjoying each other’s company.
“Maybe a different movie for Lorelai now, Karla,” I said.
She groaned. “But she just watches Frozen all the time.”
“‘Let it goooo!’” Lorelai dragged out.
“Please. Anything but that,” Karla begged.
I raised an eyebrow, thinking deeply about what we could watch, and then I parted my lips. “Have you ever heard of a show called Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood?” I asked.
“Nope, and it sounds dumb,” Karla mentioned.
I didn’t take it personally. Teenagers were pretty closed-off to the best parts of the world. I found the show on a streaming network, and played an episode. Karla sighed right away. “Yup, I was right. It’s stupid,” she remarked.
Lorelai echoed her sister. “Yup, stupid,” she exclaimed.
But regardless, they sat there and watched an episode. Then another. And another.
By the fourth episode, the girls had fallen asleep on the floor with each other, snuggled up and completely knocked out from their sugar party.
I grabbed my phone quickly and snapped a few pictures of them, because it was one of those moments that shouldn’t be forgotten.
It was an important one.
Around seven, the front door opened, and I was stunned to see Greyson walking in with his suitcase. He looked over to me, and then to the girls still resting in a pile on the floor.