Serial Story, Chapter 3, Title TBD
Todd stopped and picked up three of the latest superhero movies, including the most recent X-men flick. Though not as new, he thought she’d like it.
He pulled into the driveway a bit nervous about the next few hours. He hadn’t invited a woman to his house in a long time. He hadn’t actually been on a date since Patricia — the last woman he’d had over. The woman had connived and manipulated her way into his life, and he’d been the fool to believe her, until she’d berated his daughter for spilling her drink at the dinner table. He’d promptly asked her to leave, knowing that anyone who treated his daughter like that in front of him would do worse later.
But then, having Ellie over wasn’t really a date. It was more like an interview. Except she’d said she didn’t cook or clean well and didn’t have much experience with children. How could he think she’d be the right person to take care of Kaitlyn?
He glanced in the review mirror at his daughter and then to the passenger seat.
“Are you having second thoughts?” Ellie asked.
“In a way. I’ve only ever trusted Mrs. Rosenblume with Kaitlyn. If she couldn’t watch her, I either took Kaitlyn with me or didn’t go. She’s my whole world.”
“I understand. If you’d rather take me home, it’s not a problem.”
“No. I need a new nanny-slash-housekeeper-slash-cook.”
“Didn’t you hear me say that I may not be any good at either of those as I have no experience?”
“Yeah, I heard you, but I also saw how you treated my daughter. And even if you can’t cook or clean, I’d hire you. Taking care of Kaitlyn would be your primary job. Anyone can learn to cook and clean. Not everyone can treat a child with respect.”
“You sound like you’re speaking from experience.”
“I am. I’ve had a date or two over to meet Kaitlyn. None of them even bothered to address her unless she did something they didn’t like or said something to me about them. The relationships ended there. You’ve already won my daughter’s heart. That’s paramount in my mind for anyone that comes into our lives.”
“Think of today as an interview of sorts. If the three of us can get on well, then you’re hired.” He opened his door. “I hope I didn’t scare you with all of that.”
“No. It’s just a lot to take in.” She glanced at him then out the windshield. “You have a beautiful home.”
“Thanks. I like it.” He carefully unbuckled his sleeping daughter. “Could you grab the movies?”
He led her through the garage and waited while she opened the door. Then he entered his home. “I’ll lay her down and be right back.”
He headed upstairs and laid Kaitlyn on her bed, removed her shoes, and covered her with the throw folded at the end of her bed. After kissing her forehead, he went back downstairs.
Ellie hadn’t moved. Her gaze wandered his kitchen and family room. The open floor plan allowed her to see it all with a single sweep.
He looked around. His home wasn’t sparkling clean, but lived in. A few of Kaitlyn’s dolls lay on the couch under their blankets, but other than that nothing in particular was out of place. No dishes were piled in the sink. The counters were crumb free.
“Would you like a drink? I think I have a can or two of regular soda and water.”
“Water’s fine. Thank you.”
“Go on in and have a seat. I’ll just get a couple glasses of water and then join you.”
She walked into the living room and sat on the edge of the only single chair in the room. Her knuckles whitened around the movie cases. She seemed ready to bolt at the slightest provocation.
He fixed the waters, entered the family room with the two glasses and set them on the coffee table in front of the couch. “Are you okay? You seem a little pale.”
“I’m not sure I should be here.”
“You’re an attractive, single man. I’m a single woman. People could get the wrong impression.”
“People will always think what they want, no matter what it looks like or actually is. At some point, you have to learn to not do something too untoward, but still live your life despite others’ opinions.”
“I guess. Propriety was drilled into me as a child. Always pay attention to how others will see whatever it is you’re doing. Things like that are hard habits to break.” She sighed and slumped. “Besides that, I don’t even know you, and here I am sitting in your house with no way to leave.”
“I understand. I’d be happy to take you home as soon as Kaitlyn wakes up. Or I can call you a cab, if you really want to leave.”
She looked up at him with wide eyes. “You’d really call me a cab?”
He frowned. “Of course I would. You’re not a prisoner here, Ellie. I would have taken you home earlier, if you’d have asked me to.”
“I’m sorry. I’m not doubting you or your integrity. I get super nervous in new situations. I always have.” She seemed to take a deep breath, and then stood and took off her jacket. “You’ve been nothing but a gentleman, even when Mrs. R foisted me on you. I appreciate it a great deal. Which movie should we watch first?”
He blinked at her sudden turn around. “You pick. I chose them for you to enjoy.”
She closed her eyes and shuffled them around, choosing the one in the center. “Here.” She handed it to him.
With a grin, he took it and inserted it into the DVD player. He closed the room-darkening curtains and took his seat on the couch. She sat beside him, though not too close. It unnerved him how much he wanted her to be closer. He hadn’t felt such a strong attraction to a woman in a long time.
Ellie jumped at the sudden appearance of the villain.
Todd chuckled beside her.
“I wasn’t expecting it.” Her defense sounded weak in her own ears.
She settled back against the couch and concentrated on the movie, trying desperately to ignore the man beside her. And it worked for about five minutes. She glanced his way. His short-cropped dark hair morphed into a dark five-o’clock shadow. As if he felt her perusal, he looked at her. His smile reflected the glow of the TV.
“Yes.” She turned back to the movie and took a deep breath. Her admiration of him had only increased since Mrs. R had introduced them. He seemed to genuinely care about people, and his efforts to make her comfortable hadn’t gone unnoticed — the throw he’d pulled off the back of the couch and draped over her legs when she’d pulled her sweater closer around her, and the cup of hot chocolate he’d made for her among them.
“What ya watchin’?” Kaitlyn asked as she stumbled into the room, rubbing her eyes.
“We’re at the end of this movie. Come sit with me for a few minutes and be quiet. Okay?” Todd said.
Kaitlyn did as he asked, snuggling in his lap. She didn’t make a peep until Ellie glanced her way.
“Is it over?” the little girl asked.
“Yes, ma’am. Was it too scary for you?” Ellie answered.
She shook her head, but kept her gaze away from the screen.
“Parts of it scared me. Ask your dad. I jumped.”
Kaitlyn leaned back and stared at her dad.
He nodded and chuckled. “Yep, she jumped.”
“I’ll share Harold with you,” she said, holding out her stuffed hippo.
Ellie took him, giving him a lingering hug. “He sure is a good hugger. Thank you.”
Kaitlyn took him back and snuggled with him some more.
“Would you like to play a game with me?” Ellie asked.
Ellie nodded. “You pick.”
“You might regret that,” Todd murmured after Kaitlyn had run to her room.
“Nope.” Ellie chuckled when Kaitlyn came back out with the classic Chutes and Ladders game. She set it up like a pro, and the three of them laughed and played the game as if they were a family.
Ellie sat back as Todd and Kaitlyn cleaned up. She’d managed on her own for the last few years, but she missed Andy so much at that moment. He’d loved board games, and he’d often arrange a game night when their parents were out. Even when they were young, he’d talk their nanny into playing with them. He didn’t even mind losing.
Kaitlyn slipped quietly from the room as Todd scooted closer to Ellie. “What’s up?”
“My brother loved games. All types. I miss him so much.” More tears pooled in her eyes.
Todd handed her a tissue.
She blew her nose. “Sorry.”
“I understand. There are things that Marissa and I liked to do together when we were still in high school that choke me up at times. It does get better.”
“I haven’t missed him so much in a long time. I’ve been too busy, and when my parents kicked me out, all of my friends stepped away too.”
“What about the rest of your family?”
She shook her head. “No one was willing to risk my father’s wrath. For a while, I just didn’t tell anyone my last name, or I made something up, so no one would know who my father is.”
“And you haven’t had any contact with them since you moved out?”
“No.” She stood and carried their glasses to the kitchen, returning with the dishrag to wipe the table. “And I don’t want any. They made their wishes clear when my stuff landed beside me on the front lawn in black trash bags.”
Ellie hesitated to look in Todd’s direction. She didn’t want his pity, but his voice didn’t seem to carry a hint of that emotion. She glanced his way. Concern filtered through his gaze.
Kaitlyn rushed back into the room. “Daddy, can I go swing?”
“Yes. Remember the rules.”
“I know. Stay in the backyard and don’t leave for any reason.”
“Good girl. Miss Ellie will be out in a bit. I want to show her the workshop.”
“Ewww. It has spiders and makes me sneeze. I don’t like it in there.”
“I know, sweetness. You don’t have to go with us.”
“Okay.” She raced out the door.
“If only I had that much energy,” Ellie said.
“Yes, well, we probably did at one time.”
“True. Okay, Mr. Parker, lead the way. Let’s see if we can transform this workshop into something remotely livable. Of course, I live in a dump, so anything is probably a step up at this point.”
A long chapter this time, so I’ll leave it at that. I hope you enjoyed it. 🙂
I’m considering adding a couple of pages to my website. I’d love to have your opinions.
- A creative page: I do various forms of creativity–paint pouring, watercolor, etc–and I didn’t know if y’all would be interested in seeing my creations.
- Books read: this would include the title (linked, if I find it worthy of that recommendation) and a rating, but no reviews. This will include books I started but didn’t finish (usually because of graphic sex scenes or an abundance of foul words).
Would either, or both, of these interest you?