He raised an eyebrow, then his eyes fell back to me. “Eleanor.”
“Oh, hey, Greyson. What’s up?”
His eyes darted back to the girls, then back to me. “Eleanor.”
I swallowed hard. “Yes?”
“Can I have a word in my office?”
He headed off with his suitcase handle still in his hand, and I followed his footsteps, with every nerve in my gut twisting and turning.
He didn’t speak right away, but he did gesture toward a chair, and I sat quickly. I kept fidgeting with my fingers, unsure what to do with my hands. I knew I had been out of line that day. I knew I’d made a lot of mistakes, but truthfully, I didn’t regret it. For the first time in a long time, I had seen Karla smile.
That made it worth it to me.
He set his briefcase down, took off his coat, and then took a seat at his desk.
Still no words.
His hands clasped together, and he took in a deep breath. “I received a call from Mrs. Robertson today.”
“Caroline Robertson’s mother.”
Oh. That woman.
“Listen, I can explain. I know I snapped, and I’m sorry, but then again, I’m not actually sorry. You know why? Because she and her daughter were both extremely disrespectful toward Lorelai and I stand by everything I said.” I paused. “Well, maybe calling her daughter a little bitch was out of line, but I do stand by the fact that the mother was a bitch. And I’m sorry, but—”
“Eleanor,” Greyson said sternly.
“Yes. Sorry. I’m just… I want you to know that even though I know I’m in a lot of trouble, that I stand by it. I stand by my words, and I know it was wrong of me and childish to snap in public, and I know it paints you in a bad light, but I just couldn’t hold it in. I know you’re probably also wondering why there’s a big mess in your living room, and I’m just going to tell you now because whatever, I’m already in trouble, but Karla had a really shitty hard day too, and I took her out of school and we binged Harry Potter movies and ate sugar, and okay, I’m sorry.”
He lowered his brows, staring, not really showing any type of emotion. Not anger, not disappointment—nothing really. I wished he’d stop that. I wished he’d at least give me something to go off of, just a few context clues.
“Thank you,” he finally said.
“I’m sorry, what?”
“I said thank you. Thank you for being there for my girls.”
I cocked an eyebrow, baffled. “You aren’t…you aren’t mad?”
“No. I called you in here to just say thank you for standing up for them. I know I’m not always able to be around, and I know I’ve been distant over the past few months. I’m not…” He took a breath and looked down at his hands. “I’m not myself. I’m trying to be myself to get back to normal, but I’m not there yet. So, thank you for being there. They needed you today. I needed you today.”
It was the complete opposite of what I’d thought he was going to say to me. Honestly, I wasn’t even sure how to react.
I sat back in my chair, so thrown off. “Oh, well…okay. You’re welcome.”
“Just keep me in the loop a little next time. If you’re going to take Karla out of school or cuss out a woman in front of the whole elementary school, just give me a heads-up.”
“Yes, of course. It won’t be a normal thing, and I am really sorry for it all, especially for snapping at Lorelai’s school.”
“Don’t be. Mrs. Robertson is a bitch.”
I smiled. He smiled back.
Greyson smiled at me.
It was the kind of smile I remembered, the kind of smile that had made me look at him time and time again in wonderment when we were younger, the kind I hadn’t known I’d missed until I saw it on his lips.
My lips parted, and I spoke softly. “More of that, Grey.”
More of that.
After Eleanor left that evening, I continued working in my office for a while, and when Landon’s call came through, I actually answered. “Hey, Landon. What’s up?”
“For the love of all good things, is that what you sound like nowadays? I swear your voice got deeper,” he joked.
“I just saw you at Lorelai’s party.”
“Still, it feels weird having you pick up my calls. For some reason, I didn’t expect you to answer.”
“Yeah, sorry about the missed calls—you know, all five hundred of them.”
“Meh, I figured you’d answer when you were ready.”
“Yeah. How’s being back in California treating you?”
He updated me about how filming for his next movie was going, how crazy the paparazzi was, how he’d slept with half of Hollywood. You know, the basics.
It was crazy how different we’d become, but still, in many ways, we were the same—like how Landon couldn’t keep himself from sleeping with any woman who looked his way.
“But can we talk about Eleanor for a minute? That was kind of amazing what she did for Lorelai’s birthday.” Landon mentioned.
“Yeah, she’s been pretty amazing. Better than I deserve, actually. She’s really helped the girls more than I could say.”
“Yeah. So, have you seen Shay since Eleanor—” Landon started, but before he could finish, there was a knock on my door. Then it opened, and Karla was standing there.
I was somewhat stunned.
Karla never came to my office.
“Hey, Dad,” she said, clearing her throat. I couldn’t remember the last time she’d said Dad without anger in her voice. This was beyond strange. I was definitely going to proceed with caution. “Can I talk to you real quick?”
“Yeah, of course.” I went back to the phone call. “Landon, I’ll have to call you back.”
“Okay! And now that I know your phone works, don’t ignore my calls anymore. Otherwise, I’ll start calling more. Tell the girls I said hi. Bye!”
I hung up and looked back to Karla. She seemed nervous for some reason, which in turn, made me nervous. “What’s going on?”
“Listen, I know Eleanor screwed up today, and I’m pretty sure you’re going to fire her or whatever because you’ve fired nannies for a lot less than what she did today, but…well, I just thought you should know she was just looking out for me and Lorelai. She’s a bit weird and stuff, and way too nosey and interested in my life, but for the most part, I think she’s pretty okay at her job. She’s pretty good with Lorelai, too. So, if you could not fire her, that would be great.”
I brushed the palm of my hand against the back of my neck. “You like her.”
She did; I could tell. Karla didn’t stand up for things or people she didn’t like.
She shrugged. “She’s fine, I guess.”
“I’ll keep her on if you tell me where you went during the school days at the beginning of the year.”
Her whole energy shifted and her face dropped. I saw a flash of worry wash over her and then she composed herself and sighed. “Just forget it, alright?”
I had to try. My mind hadn’t stopped thinking about the possibilities and the danger Karla could’ve been involved with. Each day I wondered where she had gone. Each day I wondered about the battles she faced with herself.
She turned to walk away, and I called after her.
“Yeah?” she huffed.
“I think you’re right—I think Eleanor is good for our family. So, I’m going to keep her on as the nanny.”
A weight lifted from her shoulders as she released a sigh. “Oh, okay, cool. Because like I said, she’s okay.” Karla shrugged. “You know, for a Hufflepuff.”
I made my nightly stops to the girls’ rooms, and when I passed Karla’s, her bedroom light was still on, but she was in bed, reading a Harry Potter book. I couldn’t think of the last time I’d seen her read. She used to do it all the time. It had been almost impossible to find her without a book in her hands, but after her mother passed away, Karla had kind of tossed aside all the things she loved.
That was when I knew it was happening. Eleanor was doing that thing she was so good at doing, slowly sliding into a life and making it better without the person even knowing it was happening.
Greyson did his best trying to show up for his daughters. For the most part, it was easy with Lorelai. She welcomed him back with arms wide open. He stopped working as late each night, and made time to attend her karate practices every now and again. I swore every time he walked into the class, Lorelai’s eyes lit up as if her biggest dream had come true. She’d perform better, too, and always looked back toward Greyson to make sure he was watching.
Then when dinner came around, he’d sit down with us and talk. Lorelai, of course, led most of the conversations, but Greyson was there. He was engaging. He was becoming a part of his family again.
Karla wasn’t having it at all, though. Whenever I invited her to dinner, she didn’t even reply anymore. She simply walked off and never looked back. There came a point when it was too much for me, and I finally followed her into her bedroom one evening. She was sitting on her bed, eating her dinner with her headphones on.
“You have to stop doing this, Karla,” I told her.
“This. Shutting everyone out. Your father is trying.”
“I don’t care that he’s trying. He had a million days to try. I waited so long for him to try, but it doesn’t matter anymore. I just don’t care.”
I walked over to her and inhaled deeply. “Come to dinner tonight, Karla.”
“Are you deaf? I said no already. I’m pretty sure I made that really clear every single night for the past four months.”
“Yes, I know, but I’m asking you right now to change your mind.”