“She’s napping in her crib.” Rachael turns on the TV in the living room and a live feed of Morgan appears.
“Not your average baby monitor.” I grin.
“Only the best. Jenna and Nathaniel didn’t skimp on much.”
I’m not sure who this Nathaniel guy is because the Nate I knew was frugal. It took at least four holes in his socks to warrant tossing them.
Secondhand sporting equipment.
Even the occasional trip to the food pantry when money got really tight for his family.
“He can monitor her as well from his computer or phone. Cameras throughout the house, so don’t try and steal anything.” Rachael winks and laughs.
“Bummer. I brought my tape measure to see if that sofa would fit in my apartment. And the Viking stove too.”
“Do you have any questions? Everything you’ll need is in the nursery. My number and Nathaniel’s number is on the kitchen counter. Help yourself to food, but other than beer and baby formula, I don’t think there’s much in the house. I bring my own stuff. You might want to do the same.”
Rachael sucks in a deep breath and holds it before releasing it on one big huff. “I’m nervous.”
“No need to be. We’ll be fine.”
“I know.” She curls her hair behind her ears and smiles. “Leave her in her crib until she wakes up. Nathaniel’s trying to train her to be self-soothing. Holding her yesterday was an exception so you could meet her. It’s hard to let her be, but it’s really for the best.”
“Got it.” I give a sharp nod.
“Okay then …” Her eyes make a quick sweep of the room. “I’m off. If you need anything our numbers are—”
“On the counter. I got it. No worries.”
“And if it’s a real emergency—”
“9-1-1. Got it.” I fight back a chuckle because while it’s funny, I can feel how much it pains her to leave. The need or guilt to fill her sister’s shoes is palpable.
“Duh.” She shakes her head. “I’m out of here, then. See you tomorrow.”
After the door clicks shut behind her, I turn in circles several times. Here I am. And he could be watching my every move. There’s nothing unnerving about that. I wonder if there’s audio enabled with these surveillance cameras.
“Hey, Professor Hunt.” My gaze roams the room until I spy a camera in the corner. I grin and wave. “Thanks for the job. Morgan is in good hands.” I shoot two thumbs-up at the camera and grab my backpack to retrieve a book. “The Power by Naomi Alderman.” I hold up the red covered book so he can see it. “Have you read it? Probably not. You should. It’s quite thought-provoking. I don’t want to ruin it for you, so I’ll just say it’s some stimulating insight into what the world would be like if women were deemed the stronger sex. I finished We Were Liars by E. Lockhart last week. Mind-blowing.” I find my page and start to read.
An hour later Morgan stirs, more like a muscle twitch, but I’m in charge, so I make the executive decision that she needs out of jail. “Hey, Lazy Daisy.” I kiss her head and lay her on the changing table. Her fisted hands and springy legs jerk as I unwrap the burrito. “Why is your diaper dry? That’s not good.”
Morgan makes a weak attempt at scolding me as I dress her and carry her to the kitchen to heat up a bottle. My phone on the counter chimes with a text from a number I don’t recognize.
It’s not time for her to eat.
Snapping my head up toward the nearest camera, I shoot it a stink look.
Swayze: Her diaper is dry.
I add the number to my contact list with his name.
Professor: Are you sure? They’re very absorbent.
Swayze: It’s a nice day. After I give her a bottle I may take her for a walk. Is that okay?
He doesn’t respond until I take the bottle from the warmer.
Professor: She can’t walk yet.
I giggle and look at the camera. This is the Nate Hunt I remember. Total smart-ass.
Swayze: Good point. Maybe I’ll put her in the baby carrier.
Professor: Don’t give her the whole bottle.
Swayze: I won’t. Just the milk inside it.
Professor: You know what I mean.
I carry Morgan to the rocking chair. “I do, Professor Hunt,” I mumble, hoping he can hear my voice but not make out my words, “but I’m still going to let her feed until she pops off like a stuffed tick.”
She sucks down the whole bottle while my phone vibrates and chimes on the counter. After I burp her, change her diaper, and get her secured in the baby carrier, I check my phone. There is a string of texts spaced about five minutes apart.
Professor: That’s enough milk.
Professor: That’s enough.
Professor: Why are you ignoring me?
Professor: I can’t believe you let her drink the whole bottle.
I slip the phone in my back pocket and wave at the camera in the living room, the one in the hall, and the one by the front door. “Say ‘Bye, Daddy.’”
Nate arrives home an hour early—if seven at night can be considered early. He sets his messenger bag on the counter, stares at the screen of his phone, and fetches a drink of water before making eye contact with me.
I don’t have to acknowledge the downward curl of his lips to know he’s disappointed. His weary eyes say it all. They say, My wife died. I’m miserable. And after a long day, the last thing I need is to come home to the nanny breaking rule number one—don’t hold the baby.
Reclined in the chair with a book in one hand and my other hand drawing circles on Morgan’s back as she slumbers in the comfort of human touch, I regret nothing. On a sigh, he marches toward me and lifts her from my chest.
No nuzzling to inhale her baby scent.
He takes her to her nursery with the sentiment of carrying a paper grocery sack in from the car.
I pack my bag and attach it to my back just as he returns.
“Thank you for today. Tomorrow I’ll have Rachael explain a little better the self-soothing process we’re using with Morgan. Too much off-schedule feeding and holding today.”
His ginger locks look like his hands tugged the hell out of them today, probably while watching me overfeed and over hold his daughter. Those eyes, they feel like an intimate embrace, so damn familiar. How can he look at me with such detachment? What happened to him that he doesn’t remember me?
“I’m sure you saw me peek into the room beyond the nursery.”
“It’s stuff from baby showers,” he says in a thick voice.
I nod, rubbing my lips together. There’s wall-to-wall baby things in that spare bedroom. Nice things. Brand new. Waiting to be used. “I figured. You have six different baby seats and two swings. Have you thought about bringing a few things out here or setting one in your office? It would be hands-off.” I don’t grin. It’s not funny. It’s utterly heartbreaking.
“She’s good in her crib, and I can monitor her, so what’s the point?” His body shifts as he clears his throat.
“Well, you could at least talk to her. Stare at her. I don’t know. It was just a thought.”
“She’s good.” He regards me like I’m his student and his words are final.
I feel all fifteen years between us.
“She’s good,” I echo. Morgan’s not good. She’s been out of the womb for four weeks. Her mommy died, and the people who are supposed to love her think casting her into some oblivion of bullshit self-soothing is what she needs. I have nothing to base this on, but I feel in the depths of my soul that babies grieve too. Nate has his family, Rachael, his co-workers, and Dr. Greyson. Who does Morgan have? A blanket and a half a bottle of formula?
Her cry echoes into the room. Nate’s shoulders tense as his jaw clenches. It’s not a fussy cry, it’s a desperate save-me cry. On instinct, I turn to go to her.
“Leave her. She’ll calm down.”
My hands fist. It’s all I can do to keep them from wrapping around his thick neck and shaking some sense into him. I should leave. My job for the day is over. But I can’t. And as upset as I think he is with me, he’s not telling me to go because he’s not sure she will settle down, which means he will have to deal with her.
Pick her up.
Of course he loves her. How can he not? But why is he fighting it?
We stand in the same spots for ten minutes. I know this because the clock on the microwave is in my line of view. The cries have not subsided, not even a little. They’ve grown like the anguish on Nate’s face.
“I’m going to pick her up. You can physically stop me, but I will fight you, or you can fire me, but I’m. Picking. Her. Up.” With a quick pivot, I make long strides to the nursery, my aching heart ready to bust through my chest.
As a nanny, there’s this point of no return. It’s the moment when the child matters more than the idiot parents. The point where the only way to get the nanny out of the house is to fire her because she’s not there for the paycheck. It’s a heroic need to save an innocent human, to fight for them when they cannot fight for themselves. It’s long days of contemplating the unfairness of undeserving humans having everything but not giving a damn about anything.