The doorbell rings just as I’m trying to simultaneously flip a pancake with one hand and pull bacon off the griddle with another. The pancake ends up sticking, then folding in half, and my forearm hits the edge of the griddle. I swear I can hear my skin sizzle from the contact.
“Fuck!” I jerk backward, dropping both the fork in one hand and the spatula in the other, thankful that Ben is in his room playing and didn’t hear me say that. It’s a constant battle sometimes to watch my language around the kid.
Slapping at the control knobs, I turn the heat completely off the large electric griddle I had been struggling with and rub gently the burn on my arm as I head toward the front door. As I round the corner from the kitchen into the living room, I slam my bare foot into Ben’s large dump-truck toy, causing a string of curses to come out of my mouth now as I hobble onward to the door.
My front door is honey-colored oak and has a large oval glass inset with a beveled flower design. Gina had picked it out and had it installed, claiming that it allowed more light into the front entranceway. I thought it was a little too girly, but I didn’t argue with her. The house was her domain.
The glass lets me see my visitor on the other side, but provides no details because of the beveled cuts and partial frosting, which distort the person. But I know who it is.
Ben’s new nanny.
She was Delaney’s top choice, and after I briefly scanned her application I had to sit and listen to my sister rave about her. Delaney felt she was perfect for the job in all respects. She was fantastic with children, having helped raise her three nephews for a period of time. She was also a student with a flexible schedule. Delaney actually droned on and on about this particular situation, but I tuned her out and started thinking about everything I’d need to do to get the house ready to put on the market. I was seriously considering selling it. Maybe move farther out into the country, where we could have some land and Ben could have a dog.
Finally, I just cut Delaney off and said, “She sounds perfect. Let’s go with her.”
And now, as I’m about to open the door to let a woman into my house who will have the most important of responsibilities in helping me care for my son, I’m suddenly realizing I don’t know anything about her other than her name and a vague recollection that she’s a student who helped raise her nephews.
Just fucking great. Way to be an involved and responsible parent, Zack.
The only saving grace at this moment is that Delaney thoroughly interviewed this girl, checked out her references, and was absolutely enchanted with her. I trust Delaney, so this will be fine. She’ll be great, in fact.
I wish I believed myself.
I swing the door open and get my first look at the woman who will be moving into my house and caring for my son. I’m not sure what I expected, but this wasn’t it.
Based on Delaney’s assessment, I expected her to have a superhero’s cape on, or at the very least a shiny gold halo and massive angel wings sprouting out of her back.
Instead…she’s sort of unremarkable.
She stares up at me with round, crystal-blue eyes that are devoid of any makeup and surrounded by brown plastic-framed glasses. Her hair is dark, held back with a headband and twisted up behind her so I have no clue how long it is. She’s small, barely coming up to my shoulder, and swimming in an oversized, extremely faded red NC State sweatshirt and baggy jeans that look about two sizes too big for her. An old backpack slung over her shoulder and a pair of well-worn tennis shoes complete her outfit.
“Roberta?” I ask hesitantly, because suddenly I’m thinking this may be someone soliciting something…or maybe even a homeless person looking for a meal. The way those clothes completely swallow her makes me think she’s starving underneath all that material.
She gives me an outwardly bright smile and sticks a delicate hand out toward me. Her sweatshirt is so big, her sleeves are rolled up around her wrists. “Actually…I go by Kate. Roberta’s my first name, which I was named after my daddy, Robert, but seriously…who wouldn’t hate that name? So I go by my middle name, which is Kathryn, actually. So I shorted it down to Kate, because Kathryn sounds just so…I don’t know…like a Catholic saint or something, and I’m not Catholic. I was raised Southern Baptist, but I really don’t go to church anymore, so—”
She pauses …finally, and takes a deep breath. Her smile goes from politely earnest to a sheepish grin, and she gives an apologetic shrug. “Sorry…I’m nervous and I tend to prattle when I’m nervous.”
I just blink at her, completely shocked silent. I have no clue what to think about this strange woman…no, girl, I think, because she looks so fucking young.
“How old are you?” I ask, my eyes glancing suspiciously at her hand still extended toward me.
“Twenty-three,” she says. “Didn’t Delaney tell you about me? You knew I was coming today, right?”
“Um…yeah, she did. I guess I didn’t hear her mention your age,” I mutter.
Kate takes a small step forward and pushes her hand farther toward me, giving me a pointed look. “It’s nice to meet you.”
Her voice is soft, with a moderate southern twang. I can’t remember if Delaney told me where she was from or not. Fuck…I can’t remember anything she said.
I reach out hesitantly and shake her hand. It’s tiny and her bones feel small, but she grips me surely. “Yeah…uh, nice to meet you too,” I say absently.
Our hands break apart and we just stare at each other.