“Are you sick of the continental breakfast yet? I wouldn’t trust the age of those cornflakes. They always look highly suspicious sitting there all oddly contortedly flaky.”
Rie grinned up at Nick and went back to her Fisher-Price princess horse stable thing. Most of the time she just knocked the horseback princesses to their doom rather than watch them slowly clop at a scientific decline. Every time one of those blonde princesses fell, I was reminded of my own tumble off the fire escape except that the princesses hadn’t spewed first.
“I’m not sick of the breakfast,” I assured him. I was finally caught up on sleep. I wouldn’t call my mind completely clear, but I wasn’t feeling as irrational as I was just a few nights ago. “I have laid down some plans.”
Nick leaned back in the wingback chair that he dwarfed. A guy that was all legs and chest and arms couldn’t look dainty no matter how hard the red floral chair tried. “And?”
To his credit, Nick hadn’t bugged me a lot. He had sent me some text messages that mostly consisted of jokes or pictures of Baylee and him pranking Brian while he was trying to sleep. That hadn’t stopped him from practically flying over to the hotel when I had called him this morning.
“And,” I leaned forward, my hands sliding across the thinning denim material covering my knees. “I saw the attorney you texted me about. I filed yesterday. He’ll get served tomorrow.”
Nick exhaled and leaned forward. Our knees almost touched. “How does that make you feel?”
I cracked a smile. “Should I lay down on the couch to continue this session, Freud?”
His eyes sparkled. “If you lay down on the couch it might turn into a whole different session, Midge.”
I blushed. HARD. “I’m feeling like it’s the right decision,” I stammered, ignoring the picture of me on the couch for obvious reasons. “I’ve been living for him for too long.”
Nick nodded. “And so, where has Midge thus decided to live?”
I grinned. “Pulling Shakespeare?”
“I’m well read.”
“I read a lot actually,” Nick leaned forward. “I’m into medicine and science and aliens and other stuff.”
“I love how you went from medicine to aliens in the same sentence,” I laughed.
“Hey internal, external, extraterrestrial,” he motioned to his body. “I’m the whole package.”
I laughed harder, but part of me agreed. “Anyhow, I’m going to grab an apartment for a year and then see what happens. I need to get a job, but the school year is almost over so I’m going to have to be a little creative. Maybe a preschool will hire me and I can take Rielynn with me.”
“Or you could choose plan C.”
“Well, I figured Plan Carter would be a little pompous,” he leaned back into the chair and sprawled out his legs. “See, we’re going on tour and if you haven’t noticed, Backstreet Boys like to procreate.”
I smirked. “Oh really.”
“Yeah, I mean Howie has his mini me and then illegitimate baby Carter--”
Nick’s eyes crinkled. “Dude, it’s the newest rumor on Twitter. Holden is so blonde it isn’t even funny so they think I just decided to hop in the sack with Howie’s wife, Leigh and the result was my doppelganger.”
“You’re really going to have to freshen up your vocabulary before you step back into the classroom you know.”
“I know what a doppelganger is!”
Nick laughs. “Anyhow, Howie’s got his boys and then Brian’s got Baylee and AJ has Ava. Kevin’s got M squared--”
“Mason and Maxwell. M squared. There’s been Twitter theories they’re my kids too ‘cause of the blondness, but no one can deny those eyebrows on them. NO one.”
“And I have Parker. So you see the amount of diapers alone is mind-boggling. Kevin and Howie share a nanny, but AJ, Brian, and I could use one.”
Nick nodded as if it was obvious. “Yeah, a nanny.”
I didn’t get it. “And that’s plan C, how?”
Nick smirked. My brain felt empty. He pointed at me and then at himself. He waited.
“You don’t mean--”
“You’re qualified. You have a child. You’re a teacher. You could probably tutor Baylee when he comes out with us. Leighanne and Brian might not be simpatico, but Leighanne loves that Baylee gets to go onstage and warm up the crowd.”
“I can’t do that,” I shook my head. “That would mean--”
“That would mean a nice paycheck, room and board--” Nick held out a hand and stopped me before I said what was on the tip of my tongue. “I mean, go ahead and get your apartment. I’m just saying--”
“I’m just saying I don’t know the first thing about being a nanny. Besides, being on the road with you---”
I looked at him. He gave me the most angelic look he could muster. I snorted.
“I promise no funny business,” he said. “Brian either. We’re perfect gentleman. We’re just helping a gorgeous friend through her very tough time. I’ll even offer my shoulder if you need it.”
“Just your shoulder?”
Nick’s smile almost blinded me. “Unless you require more.”
I rolled my eyes. I glanced over at Rie. She was still engrossed in her princesses and the stable.
“Just until fall,” Nick said sweetly. “You’ll get a teaching job then. This could just be the temporary summer thing. And the best part is you can take Rie to work with you. It’s like you just said. It’s perfect.”
I sighed. He was right. It did sound perfect. I thought about our trip to Malaysia…
“Brian asked me if I was your official tour nanny when we went to Malaysia,” I said cautiously. “Have you had this scheme planned since then?”
“Of course not! I have totally wanted you as tour nanny since the day at the zoo. Seriously.”
My eyes widened. “You’re incredible.”
He looked pleased. “Why thank you.”
“Not that way.”
I exhaled. The thought of getting paid to watch little kids and see the country was incredible tempting. It also meant that I wouldn’t run the risk of running into Charlie. Then again, I also didn’t know what sort of rights he had to Rielynn. I was terrified of leaving her alone with him, not completely because of what I had seen, but because he had already become so emotionally unattached. My lawyer had already encouraged me that my case looked good in my favor because of the total uncertainty of the mental and physical health of the father and the long hours he was required to put in at work. I could be with and care for Rielynn every second of every day if I took this opportunity and it would be because of my need for work not my need to escape…
Nick studied my face intently. “Why do I think I missed a whole entire conversation that took place only in your mind?”
I smiled. “You didn’t miss much.”
“MAMA! ICK! POO-NY! Poo-ny! STUGHK!”
We both looked at Rielynn. In the course of my internal back and forth, Rielynn had careened her princess pony to its doom into a little crevice of the ‘safe for ages 18 months and up playset’ and had gotten her hand completely and utterly stuck. Her eyes were wide and frantic, her fingers clenching and unclenching just mere milimeters away from the downtrodden princess. Nick sprang up.
“I’ll go down to the lobby and beg for butter!” he yelled out, yanking my hotel door open. He paused for a second. “This doesn’t reflect badly on your nanny capabilities by the way.”
The door flew shut. I picked up the plastic piece of shit castle that was holding my daughter captive. I’d watched full classrooms of children before, yet talking to Nick made me oblivious…
“I’m doomed,” I said, kissing Rielynn’s forehead.
“Doo,” she repeated pathetically. Her pronunciation was actually better.
Deep doo-doo was much more accurate.