Serial Story – Chapter 8

Fifth Wednesday means another installment in Todd and Ellie’s story. If you’ve missed any of the previous chapters, you can find them here:

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7


Chapter 8

Ellie jumped in the shower before the water had even warmed. She didn’t want to come close to hearing the door if Todd knocked.

When they’d crashed into each other, she’d been unable to stop herself from falling, and he’d held her arms, so she couldn’t even avoid landing on him. And it had happened so fast. And then she’d made the mistake of plucking a piece of grass—a stupid piece of grass—from his hair instead of getting off him as fast as possible.

If she were honest with herself, and she tried to be, laying that close to him had stirred that feeling within her again. She liked the feeling, but he was her boss.


What would her mother think? Not that her opinion mattered much any more. Her parents no longer had a say in her life and hadn’t for four years.

She shivered as she stepped from the fastest shower she’d ever taken. The water had never warmed. Was there a hot-water heater out here?

After finding something to wear—thankfully she’d remembered to use her overnight bag to pack a change of clothes so she wouldn’t have to search for them amongst the boxes—she trudged to the main house. She didn’t want to keep the family waiting any longer than necessary, even if she did feel uneasy about the situation.

Sadly, the workshop didn’t have a kitchenette, so she’d have to eat her meals with Todd and Kaitlyn. Maybe she could find a cheap mini-fridge and use a hot plate for herself. But she didn’t really want to have to make two meals in the evening. And the diet of cereal and soup had gotten old long ago.

She knocked on the door and waited.

Todd’s face appeared in the window.

Heat crawled into her face, and she looked at her feet.

He opened the door. “You don’t have to knock.”

Another blush heated her cheeks as she glanced at him. “It’s probably best if I do. I don’t want to catch you by surprise.”

“I have a five-year-old daughter. Little surprises me any more, and I stay fully dressed most of the time.”

“Most of the time?”

He ducked his head. “I have been known to leave off my shirt if Kaitlyn wakes me up, and I’m feeling especially lazy or she’s having a nightmare.” He looked at her again. “I’m sorry. I’m being rude. Come on in.” He stepped out of the way to let her pass.
The fragrance of dinner—exactly what she smelled she couldn’t decide—assaulted her nose, and her mouth watered.

“Ellie girl, I imagine you’re about done in. Sit down,” Mrs. R waved toward the adjacent dining area where Kaitlyn sat already. “I’ll bring you a bowl of stew and then mosey on home.”

Ellie stopped and stared at Mrs. R. “You don’t eat here?”

“Not anymore. When I lived alone, I would stay, but now I leave as soon as Todd gets home. I have dinner ready, but he serves and washes up. Amy, Jon’s wife, expects me to eat with them. I get there shortly after Jon does, and we sit down to eat right away. She’s such a sweetheart, welcoming me into her home, that I don’t have the heart to deny her this little thing.”

Ellie nodded and swallowed. She’d assumed she’d eat with Todd and Kaitlyn, but maybe she wouldn’t.

“I’d expect you to eat with us, just as Mrs. Rosenblume did until recently. There’s no reason for you to have to fix two meals—one for us and one for yourself—when eating here makes more sense.”

“Thank you,” she whispered.

Mrs. R set a bowl of stew in front of her. Todd and Kaitlyn already had bowls on the table. “I’ll be going. See you tomorrow around seven. Tomorrow is Kaitlyn’s day off from Kindergarten, so we’ll spend the day together.” She winked in Ellie’s direction as she smacked a kiss on the little girl’s cheek. After patting Todd on the shoulder, she left.

“Let’s pray so we can eat.”

She bowed her head as he prayed for their meal. As soon as he finished, Kaitlyn started chattering about her day at school. Ellie did her best not to yawn as she ate the warm meal that Mrs. R had prepared.

When Kaitlyn stopped talking to eat a few bites, Ellie opened her mouth to ask about the water heater, but Todd spoke first.

“Is everything okay out there?” he asked.

“Well, to tell the truth, I took a very cold shower. Either there isn’t a water heater or it isn’t working.”

“Oh, no. You should have come in here to shower.”

“Well, I didn’t know until it was a little late for that. I’ve survived a cold shower before, so it’s not that big of a deal. But I would appreciate a warm one soon.”

“I’ll go out after dinner and check it. The previous owners may not have it turned on. Honestly, I’m not even sure how it all works. I may have to look it up or call someone to take care of it.”

A knock sounded on the door.

Todd rose and went to answer it. “Hey, Jonathan. We got everything moved in. Do you know anything about hot water heaters?”

“I see that. I told y’all to wait. I’d have helped you so Ellie didn’t have to.”

The door closed, ending Ellie’s ability to hear their conversation. She stood, barely stifling a groan, and cleaned up the dishes from the table. “Kaitlyn, can you help me fill the dishwasher?”

“Really? Daddy doesn’t let me help.” She jumped up from her chair and ran to the appliance.

“I will, but you have to be careful. Okay?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Good. First, I have to rinse out the bowls, so the extra bits don’t clog the filter.”

“What’s a filter?”

“It keeps the big pieces of food from getting stuck in the pipes.”


“Here’s the first bowl. We put it on the top rack like this.” Ellie showed her how to place it.

“Okay. Can I do the next one?”

“The next one’s a little harder, but I’ll let you help me, and then you should be able to do it. You have to be careful though.”

Kaitlyn nodded.

They filled the dishwasher together, but Todd hadn’t returned yet. Maybe Jonathan was helping him with the water heater.

“Now it’s time to wash the big stuff. Do you want to help?”


“All right. Grab a chair and scoot it over. You can stand beside me for now.”

Ellie washed the pot and had Kaitlyn help rinse and dry it. “Do you know where it goes?”

She shook her head.

“Can you help me look for other pots like it? Most people like to keep the pots in the lower cabinets.”

“Okay.” She jumped off the chair and started opening all the cabinets. Before Ellie could finish the next dish, the little girl called her over. “Maybe this one.”

“That looks like a good place, and there’s an empty spot. We’ll put it there. If it’s the wrong place, Mrs. R will tell us tomorrow.”

They finished washing and putting away the dishes and wiped the table and counters. Kaitlyn wanted Ellie to read her a book, so they sat on the couch and were reading when Todd entered through the back door.

“Hi, Daddy. Miss Ellie is reading me a book.”

“I see. Do you have homework to do tonight?”

A look of chagrin crossed the girl’s face. “Yes, sir.”

He raised an eyebrow at her.

“Can we finish the book first?” she asked.

Ellie put a piece of paper in the book where she’d stopped reading. “We’ll finish tomorrow. We’re only halfway through.”

Kaitlyn’s shoulders slumped. “Okay.”

Ellie stood. “See you tomorrow, Kaitlyn. Have a good evening.”

“You’re leaving?”

“Yes, ma’am. I still have some work to do in my new home. Can I have a hug from Harold before I go?”

The girl giggled, which was Ellie’s hope when she made the request. Kaitlyn rushed across the room with Harold held closely in her arms. When she neared, she held Harold with one hand and hugged Ellie with the other, smushing Harold between them.

“A squishy hug. I love those. Thank you.”

Kaitlyn giggled again and raced down the hall toward her room.

“You really are good with her and for her.”

Ellie jumped to hear Todd’s voice so close behind her.

“Sorry. Didn’t mean to startle you.”


When Ellie turned around in front of him, Todd had the strangest desire to pull her into his arms and kiss her. He took a step back, surprised by the intensity of his thoughts. Such desire hadn’t been in his life since long before Marissa died.

Ellie’s eyes widened, but she quickly masked her face. She turned to set the book on the bookshelf. “Were you able to fix the water heater?”

“Yes. I think so, at least. It’ll be a few hours before we know for sure. The previous owners had flipped the breaker to turn it off. Jonathan said we should check that first to see if it was that simple. It seems that it might be. You’ll have to let me know for sure tomorrow. If it’s still not working, I’ll have to call a plumber to check it out.”

“Okay.” She walked around the coffee table. “I’ll see you tomorrow. Do I need to help Kaitlyn get ready for school?”

“No. She doesn’t have school tomorrow. On regular school days, Mrs. R usually arrives at ten to clean and whatever else she does before Kaitlyn comes home. I drop Kaitlyn off in the mornings, but she rides the bus home. I would like it if you waited on the porch for her.” He took a breath. “Mrs. R knows all this, so I’m sure she’ll explain the schedule with you.”

Ellie nodded. “Good night.” She seemed to flee from the room.

Had he said or done something to frighten her? He could be intense sometimes, or so he’d been told.

He shook his head and headed down the hall to Kaitlyn’s room to see if she needed help with her homework. Her kindergarten teacher rarely sent home more than a short worksheet for her young charges, but sometimes his daughter got distracted by her toys. And though she didn’t need to finish it tonight, he knew from experience, she would complain about doing it tomorrow night.

Once he settled Kaitlyn, he logged into his work account to get some stuff done since he’d been out of the office all day.

A little while later, he went to check on his daughter and found her fast asleep in her bed. She had on her pajamas, and the toothpaste on her cheek testified to the fact that she’d brushed her teeth. Or at least attempted it. He straightened her covers and kissed her cheek before turning out the light.

He went back to his office and continued with his work. A little while later, he checked the clock and realized he’d been working for several hours. He yawned and stretched. Exhaustion made his eyes heavy. He logged off his computer and headed to bed with his new nanny on his mind. Work had been a temporary distraction.