“Kathy, you are joking, right?!” he asked in disbelief, completely thrown off kilter.
“I’m so sorry, Michael. But I am in Vegas now with Shawn. Then we are going on a long honeymoon,” Kathy replied.
“We are leaving in two weeks! TWO WEEKS! What am I going to do without a nanny?!” he cried.
“I’m sorry, Michael... Can you say goodbye to Ollie for me?” she asked softly.
“Yeah sure…,” he said before hanging up and then threw the phone on the table, cursing, “Son of a bitch!”
“What’s wrong, Michael?” Kim Morgan inquired.
“Oh, nothing, just my nanny quitting on me!” he fumed as he leaned back in the chair, running his fingers through his hair.
“What?!” Neil Morgan walked up to the table, leading the cute little boy to his father with a sippy cup of milk. “Kathy just quit?!”
“She is in Vegas, eloping!” Michael gritted out to his neighbors.
“Wow…,” Kim said.
He sighed. “I need to call my mom. Can you keep an eye on Ollie for me?”
“Sure! Do you want us to hold lunch?” Neil asked, ruffling the little boy’s hair.
“No, just eat. I should only be a few minutes,” Michael replied, to which they nodded. He then went to the back of their perfectly manicured lawn and dialed up his mom.
“Michael! Hi sweetie! How are you?” Susan Whitlock gushed.
“Mom, I’m so screwed!”
“What happened?” she asked, sounding concerned. “Is Ollie okay?”
“Ollie is fine… Kathy just called and quit! She is in Vegas, eloping!”
“Oh Michael! But you are leaving in a few weeks!”
“I know! Is there any way you can help me out?” he begged.
“Oh sweetie, I can fly up and offer some help before you go, but you know I can’t go to London with you,” Susan said gently.
“I know, Mom, but if you could stay until I find someone, I would really appreciate it! You know what, I will get you a really nice birthday present!” he said.
She laughed, “Let me look for flights to Chicago and think about what you can get me for my birthday then.”
“Oh, thanks Mom! Ollie and I will pick you up at the airport. Thank you!”
“You’re welcome, sweetie. I’ll be in touch.”
Letting out a sigh, Michael went back to the table and sat down with his son and neighbors. “My mom is coming to watch Ollie until I can figure something out.”
“Michael, Kim and I had a thought. What about our daughter, Anelise?”
“What about her? Isn’t she in college?” he asked, a little confused.
“Well, yes, but she is almost done with her semester and loves to babysit,” Kim replied.
“Really? Do you think she would be interested in spending her summer nannying?”
“I think this would be perfect for her! She is getting her master’s in English literature and is just starting on her thesis.”
Neil continued, “She is a good girl, never gets in trouble, and has a 4.0. And she doesn’t party, even though her roommate really tries to get her to!”
“How old is she again?” Michael asked.
“She is twenty. She will be turning twenty-one in October,” Kim said proudly.
Michael was desperate and thought for a moment. “Well, may I have her number? I’ll give her a call and see what she thinks.”
“Of course! I’ll text her to give a heads-up,” Neil said as he passed to his neighbor a tray of grilled salmon.
As he was about to leave, Michael glanced at the pictures of the neighbors’ daughter on the walls.
She was a chubby young woman with glasses, dark auburn hair, and a nice smile. She looked like an archetypal bookworm and seemed a good choice to watch Ollie when they went to England.
He hoped the call would go well.
Anelise was making notes for the thesis proposal that she would be writing over the summer. She had to turn it in after the final, but she just wasn’t pleased with it. She wanted something more, but didn’t know what.
When she was discussing her proposal to Professor Andrews, she had felt it was lacking something, some excitement or passion, some spark that ignited her soul.
Professor Andrews, on the other hand, said what she had was great and would make a good final project. But Anelise didn’t want just good; she wanted her thesis to be amazing and awe-inspiring.
Anelise sighed as she went to get a cup of sweet tea, which she allowed herself to have once a day. She believed that if she didn’t limit herself, the weight loss she had attained and worked so hard for would go down the drain.
She took a long sip from her cup, feeling thankful that her roommate and best friend, Leslie, was out having Sunday brunch with her ridiculously wealthy family and that the apartment was quiet so she could stew in peace.
She was walking around the room, trying to clear her head and buckle back down to study for the rest of her finals, when her phone rang.
She didn’t recognize the number, but seeing that it was Chicago-based, she figured it could be the neighbor that her parents had said might call with an interesting proposal.
“Hello?” she answered.
“Um… Hello. May I speak with Anelise, please?” asked the caller in a deep baritone voice, which sent goosebumps all over her body.
“This is Anelise. How can I help you?”
“My name is Michael Whitlock. Your parents gave me your number. I am their neighbor,” he explained.
“Oh yes, they mentioned that you might be calling with a proposal. What can I do for you?”
“Well, I know this is completely out of left field, but I am in one hell of a bind. Your parents mentioned that you liked kids and babysitting might be something you’d be interested in. My nanny quit yesterday and is eloping.”
“Well, that’s awfully romantic,” she said with a smile.
He chuckled. “I agree, but the problem is I am leaving for three months for work and she was supposed to come with us and watch my son, Ollie, while I worked. Is that something you might be interested in? I’ll pay you really well.”
She bit her lip, thinking that the money might be good. She had come to really enjoy shopping with Leslie now that she had lost so much weight.
“Well, I’m not sure... I’m going to be writing my master’s thesis….”
“I know. Your parents told me. But they also said this might be of interest to you. My work is sending me to London for the summer. You would get days off to explore and do research for your paper.”
“Seriously?!” Analise took in a sharp breath hearing that.
“Yes, we leave in thirteen days, and I will be paying you $1500 per week. Food and accommodation will be covered by my company. But know that I will be working a lot,and you would be responsible for Ollie well into the nights.”
Having laid out the specifics, he hoped he had enticed her and not turned her off to the idea.
Being in London for three months? Earning a shit ton of money for watching one child? In fact, she would be making so much that she could quit the coffee shop and not go back next semester!
“Are you still there?” She heard him ask, before realizing how long she had been silent for.
“Oh my gosh, I’m sorry! Yes, I’m still here, and yes, I’ll do it!” she replied excitedly.
“Really?!” Michael said, feeling a huge weight being lifted off his shoulders.
“Yes. I know it’s not ideal that I can’t really meet you or your son before we go. But this sounds like a good arrangement for us both, especially if my parents gave you my number. And I could quit my current job considering your generous offer,” she said, feeling giddy.
“Oh my God. Thank you! I can’t tell you how much this means to me!” He all but yelled into the phone, punching the air with his fist.
They talked for several minutes about what she would be required to do and about Ollie, who sounded like a really great little boy to her.
“Would you mind if I took Ollie to some museums while we are there?” she asked cautiously.
“You want to do educational things with my child? How could I possibly say no to that?” Michael chuckled, which made her blush, realizing that it was a silly question.
“Give me your email id. I will book you a ticket to Chicago and then we can all go to London together. A long flight will be a good chance for us to get to know each other. Oh shoot, you do have a passport, right?”
“Yes I do, so I am all set. Yeah, a ticket to Chicago is fine. I will meet you at the airport.”
“Do you want to come on Friday night and stay with your parents?” he asked, knowing they hadn’t seen each other in quite a while with her taking summer courses and working.
“No!” She almost yelled, “No…um, I need Friday to get things in order. It’d be great if you can get me an early flight Saturday morning. I don’t care how early it is.”
He was a little surprised that she didn’t want to see her parents, but he didn’t pursue it. “That’s fine. I will get everything started and email you all the info.”
They talked a few more minutes before hanging up. Anelise felt like she was going to explode with excitement and couldn’t wait to tell Leslie what had just happened. She was going to spend the summer in London!
She had always wanted to go there, and now her dream was coming true! The dates aligned perfectly with her school ending and opening, based on Michael’s schedule.
She would have at least one weekend day off to herself. Plus, any time Ollie was sleeping, she would be able to write, research, or do whatever she needed.
An idea suddenly hit her, and she ran to the table and opened a new document. Words started pouring out of her. She was writing an email to Professor Andrews, grinning like a mad woman, two hours later when Leslie came home.
“Why are you grinning like the cat that ate the canary? Finally tell your parents off? Oh, my mom was so pissed you weren’t there!” Leslie threw her purse on the couch.
Analise rolled her eyes. “Not yet, but listen!” She launched into the story of what had happened and watched her best friend’s eyes get wide.
“Let me get this straight, your parents gave your number to a neighbor who needs a nanny for the summer and you are now going to be spending the summer in England while writing your thesis and getting paid to do it?” Leslie asked.
She nodded excitedly.
“And you said this neighbor has a sexy voice…? Fuck, Ani! You are going to have a kick-ass summer! I’m so jealous!”
Ani danced around their apartment excitedly.
Leslie pouted. “You are going to make me attend garden parties and charity events all by myself!”
“I’m sure your mom and sisters will be gentle,” she replied, knowing full well that Naomi Rothchild would treat her daughter like the amazing young woman she was regardless of whether Anelise was there or not.
The Rothchilds were old money in Tennessee, and as rich as they were, Naomi and Johnathan Rothchild were very down-to-earth and expected their children, all five of them, to be good stewards of the community and the family name.
Ever since becoming friends in their freshman year at Vanderbilt, Anelise and Leslie have been thick as thieves, and the Rothchilds welcomed her with open arms. They really were good people.
“We’ll see! So you leave the Saturday after finals? Friday night is party night?” Leslie huffed.
She nodded. “Yes, but it can’t get too crazy. I have to be up early for my flight to Chicago!”
“Not going back Friday to stay with Mommy and Daddy Dearest?” Leslie snickered.
Anelise threw a pillow at her. “Hardly! This actually gives me an excuse to not see them before I graduate in December. Hopefully, I will have a job by then and will have another excuse to not go back there.”
“Ani, you’ll have to talk to them about how you feel at some point. They are going to notice you have lost about forty pounds since they saw you eighteen months ago, and they’ll be able to see how hot you are and much you changed!”
“I know, Lulu, but I am just not ready to say ‘Hey, you guys smothered and coddled the fuck out of me, and I had no idea how to function in the real world. So thanks!’”
Anelise went on, “And just to add insult to injury, I’d say, ‘Oh, and my best friend who you think isn’t good enough is the greatest and treats me with kindness and respect! Her family is amazing and treats me better than you do!’”
Leslie grinned. “Blame it on my mom, she can take the fall for my upbringing and for corrupting you!”
Anelise grinned back. “Bless your mom! Now let’s do an exercise video and then get sushi for dinner!”
Leslie groaned, “I’m sorry that I ever showed you the damn program! Although if you are buying sushi, I’ll suffer through!”
They laughed and went to change.
Michael hung up, feeling relieved that the young woman was willing to look after Ollie and he could stop worrying on that front. He immediately got on his computer and found an early flight from Nashville to Chicago for her.
She would land two hours before they were set to board for London. He called the office manager of his company and explained the name changes, getting everything squared away so they were really ready to leave.
He sat back and watched smilingly at his beautiful son playing on the floor with his blocks, thinking how much he loved him. Then Anelise’s voice crept into his mind, which he thought was pretty, having an almost musicality to it.
Michael wasn’t going to overthink it, but he really wanted to know why the shy bookworm in the photos that he saw would not want to see her family after so long. It seemed there was more to that story.
He whipped out his phone and texted his best friend, Craig, who was going to London with him, “Got a new nanny. Neighbor’s daughter. All set!” The reply came shortly, ~“Hell yeah, man! One less thing to worry about before we leave! Cheers! —as the locals say”~
Laughing, Michael got up, picked up his son, threw him in the air, and went to play with him outside now that his work was done for the moment.
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