Derek the boys arrived at 4 o’clock. Abbi was nervous and excited. She had been staring
out the front window for twenty minutes. Now she was watching Derek climb out of the car. Actually it was more of a truck.
No, not a truck. An SUV. A big, black SUV. Derek got out and went to the back door. His hair was a little shorter. His jeans
looked as though they had been cut for his body. Long firm legs, tight behind. He had on a white button up shirt, with the
top three buttons undone and the sleeves rolled up to his elbows. He placed his sunglasses casually on top of his head, and
then he opened the door.
Out popped little Lucas. This little boy was a replica of his dad. Long skinny boy legs covered
by long, baggy shorts. He had his dad’s brown hair and the same radiant smile. She watched Derek’s every move
as he moved to the other side of the vehicle and opened that door. He reached in and emerged with an even smaller version
of himself. This was obviously Jacob. Abbi watched them walk to the door, Lucas was two steps ahead of Derek, who was still
carrying Jacob. It was a sight to behold.
She waited for the knock and then took quick steps to the door.
"Hello, there!" She said. "How was the ride down?"
"Oh, it was fine. Jake here fell asleep, but he’ll get his second wind anytime now."
Derek was smiling and she noted the sparkle in his eyes as he set the boy down.
Derek noticed her yellow tank top, and cut off jeans. She had her hair pulled back in a low ponytail
and her face was tanned and smooth. She was barefooted and he noted her toenails were the same shade of pink as her fingernails..
"Well, come on in. We’re out back. Dad decided to barbecue so he’s getting the coals
going. Can I get you something to drink?"
"Umm, got a beer?"
Abbi lead them through the living room, to the dining room and out the patio doors. The living
room was small but cozy. There were several pictures on the wall that he did not get a good look at, but he could tell they
were of Abbi and her family. The furniture consisted of a tan colored sofa and two tan recliners. He noted two wooden end
tables and a low, skinny coffee table. The carpet was faded, but he was almost sure that at one point it had been green.
The living room lead directly into the dining room. There was your basic oak table, surrounded
by four chairs. The walls were covered with cream wallpaper, scattered with light blue flowers. Directly to the right of the
dining room was the kitchen. The counter top was angled so that it served as a divider between the dining room and the kitchen,
but you could be in opposite rooms and still have conversation. The appliances were tan, almost yellow. The counter tops were
tan, but well worn. The floor was linoleum in a light blue flower pattern and the window was covered at the top with a faded
He followed Abbi through the patio doors and was immediately taken back by the seclusion he felt.
The whole backyard was surrounded by tall trees. He knew that he was in the suburbs, but standing on the deck, made him feel
like he was in the middle of the woods.
"Mom, Dad, this is Derek Alexander. Mr. Alexander, this is my mother, Bev, and my father, George."
Derek stuck out his hand. He gently shook Bev’s hand and then firmly grasped George’s.
"Nice to meet you both. This place is beautiful."
"Thanks," Bev said, looking around. "It works for us."
"And these," Abbi cut in, "Are the boys. Lucas and Jake."
She did it again, he thought. Derek felt a quick chill run up his spine. He felt it every time
she said his son’s name.
Luke looked up at her and said, "Um, Ms. Hamilton, could you not do that anymore?"
"Do what, Lucas?"
"Call me Lucas. Can you just call me Luke like everybody else?"
Darn kids, Derek thought.
"Luke? Sure I can do that, but then you have to call me Abbi, instead of Ms. Hamilton."
"Deal, Luke." They shook hands and everybody laughed.
Abbi slipped inside to get drinks for Derek and her dad. The boys took off for the swing set.
Abbi went back inside to help her mom, while Derek and her dad talked over the grill, the way only men can.
When the hamburgers were ready, Abbi and Bev carried all the salads and condiments out to the
table. Derek called the boys and made them go inside and wash their hands before they could eat. Abbi took them into the bathroom,
while Derek dished up their food. She could not believe how well behaved the boys were, and how at ease Derek seemed. Her
parents still made her nervous sometimes. She was sure that a stranger would be nervous. But if Derek was, he did not show
it and the boys were completely at ease.
She was actually thinking about moving away from her mom and dad, and from her sister, who just
lived across town. She had broken up with her boyfriend and was going to be taking care of somebody else’s children.
She was starting to think that maybe she was not ready for this. Being the full time nanny was definitely going to be different
from being a teacher seven hours a day. This was her potential boss sitting across the table from her and she could hardly
eat anything. She kept thinking that she was going to be living with him, in his house, away from her parents and she really
didn’t know much about him. Maybe this was too much for her to handle.
"Abbi, I checked all your references. You really have made an impression on your teachers. Nobody
had anything bad to say."
"Did you think I would give you names of people who would say bad things?" She teased.
"Well, I suppose not." He laughed a deep throaty laugh. "How soon would you want to start? The
boys are out of school in two weeks. Would you want to come up the following weekend to get settled?"
"Um, yeah, sure." But she was not sure at all.
"Great! And I got a new car for you."
"Well, that’s nice, but I have a car."
"I know, but I wanted something safe and under warranty. I need to know that when you are driving
the kids around, you will all be okay. Don’t worry. I’ll take care of gas and insurance. All you need to do is
Mr. Hamilton was the one to ask what it was.
"Oh, it’s the Navigator we drove up in."
Mrs. Hamilton gasped. "Wow. That’s some kinda car."
"Yeah, but I wanted something big and safe for Abbi and the boys. I usually drive around in a
sedan, but I think this will be better for Abbi. So she can sort of rule the road, ya know?"
George knew. He would have chosen something like that himself for Abbi, but she had to have that
Derek smiled at Abbi then and she felt her face flush. "We can come back to get you on that Saturday.
We’ll load whatever of your things will fit. Then you can come back later for whatever else you need."
"Speaking of going to your house," started George. "What kind of accommodations will there be?"
"Yeah, like where will she sleep, eat, etc."
"Oh, I see. She’ll have her own room. All of the bedrooms are upstairs. The boys share a
bath, but Abbi will have her own. It’s private, connected to her bedroom. We have a pool and a three car garage, so
she will always be able to park inside."
Abbi felt as if she was disappearing. This conversation was taking place about her, right in front
of her, around her, but she was not included.
Derek continued, "More often than not, I work at my home studio, so I am there, but not, ya know.
Abbi will be in charge of the boys’ daily routines and keeping them busy. She’ll take them to swim lessons, activities,
fix meals and the like."
"You have a studio? In your house? Wow, it must be a big house," from Bev.
"The studio is not actually in the house, it’s around back. But still close. Maybe you two
would like to come see it. I have a small guest cottage, too. I was going to let Abbi stay there, but then I thought it better
for her to be in the house, closer to the boys. You could come down and stay there if you’d like."
"That would be great. Why don’t we just bring Abbi up on Saturday? Save you the trip and
we can see that she is living in a safe place," Bev suggested.
Derek held back a laugh. "Safe? Yeah, that it is."
Abbi exploded, "You all are talking about me like I’m not even here. If it was any other
job, my parents wouldn’t have any say in the working conditions. Christ, maybe I want to drive myself up. Maybe I am
a big girl."
Everybody looked at Abbi as if she had just grown a second head. She had silenced the whole
bunch of them. Without saying another word, she got up from the table, grabbed her plate and stomped into the kitchen. The
whole group watched her walk away. Bev and George were stunned. This was a side of Abbi that they did not see much. The boys
looked down and continued to eat. Derek looked from the Hamilton’s to the direction that Abbi had gone and back again.
"Maybe I should go talk to her," said Bev standing up.
"No, let me go. Please?" Derek asked gently.
Bev gave him permission by sitting back down.
Derek found Abbi standing at the sink under the guise of doing dishes. The water was running,
but her hands were braced on the edge of the counter. Her head was leaning forward and her hair hiding her face. Derek heard
her sigh deeply.
He walked up behind her, stood close and spoke softly. "Abbi? I’m really sorry about
that. I never meant to…"
She lifted her head up gently and said, "It’s not you, Mr. Alexander. It’s them. It’s
always them." She turned around partially, keeping her hands on the counter as an anchor almost. " They think of me as their
little girl. They don’t want to allow me to grow up and make my own decisions. They were even against me taking this
"They just want you to be safe. As a father, I understand that. Why do you think we came
here? It wasn’t just because your parents asked. I wanted to check out some things for myself. I wanted to see what
kind of environment you were coming from. I’m going to be entrusting my children to you. I needed to know that I was
putting my children in the hands of somebody who came from a decent background. You wouldn’t believe some of the potential
nannies I’ve interviewed before. "
"They can’t continue to tell me what to do. They need to let me make some choices, even
if I might fail."
"Abbi, I think they are just trying to show you that they love you," he responded gently.
"Well, maybe they can show me by letting me grow up." She sounded tired, worn out.
"Maybe. And maybe you can show them that you are grown."
She turned the rest of the way around and looked at him thoughtfully. "Thank you, Mr. Alexander.
You’re right. I guess in my show of independence, I acted pretty childish."
"Um, could you stop doing that?" He asked gently.
"Calling me, Mr. Alexander. It makes me feel like somebody’s father."
Abbi looked at him sideways and they both laughed, realizing what he had said.
"What I mean is, I want us to be friends, and my friends call me Derek." He reached out, wanting
to brush her hair off her face, wanting to touch her. He pulled back his hand quickly.
"I’d like that."
"Like what?" he croaked, caught for a moment in his own thoughts.
"For us to be friends."
Then he did brush her hair back and tuck it behind her ear. "We better get back to the party."
They returned to the patio and found George telling the boys some fishing story. Luke and Jake
were sitting across from him with their scrawny little arms propped under their heads. They were listening intently.
Abbi laughed and started to clear the table. Derek sat down next to George and listened as he
told the story. Bev started to stack dishes and clear things out of the way. Abbi took a handful of dishes into the kitchen.
She started running water in the sink, and heard the front door open and shut. Her sister, Stephanie, popped into the kitchen
from the garage.
Stephanie was a lighter version of Abbi. Where Abbi had dark curly hair, Stephanie had blond wavy
hair. Abbi had blue eyes, Stephanie green. Stephanie was two inches taller, but curvier than Abbi. She was wearing a red tee
and new Levi’s, with her hair pulled back into a low ponytail.
"Hey, Sis! What’s up?" quizzed Stephanie, with a grin.
"Steph, what are you doing here?"
"I just came to check out your new boss." She turned to look out the window. "Is that him?"
"Yes, that’s him. Now get out!"
"He’s not food. He’s my boss." Abbi tried to shuffle Stephanie towards the door. Stephanie
made a sharp turn and headed for the patio. "I think I wanna meet him."
"Steph!" she called after her. "Steph! Aw, damn it!" Abbi dried her hands on her shorts quickly
and went out after her sister.
Everybody looked up when the girls came bouncing through the door. Bev and George smiled, Derek
looked confused and the boys weren’t sure what to do.
"Derek, this is my older sister, Stephanie." Abbi said running up next to her. "Steph,
this is my new boss, Derek Alexander."
Derek stood up and put out his hand. "Nice to meet another member of the family. These are my
boys, Luke and Jake. Boys, say hi to Stephanie."
"Hi, Stephanie," they said in unison, upset that the fishing story had been interrupted.
"I love your work," Stephanie said, still holding Derek’s hand.
"Why, thank you. I love my work, too," he teased. Abbi loved that. He had a great sense of humor.
He didn’t take anything too seriously.
Stephanie let go of his hand and offered to help clean up. Abbi knew she only offered as an excuse
to stay around. She glared at her sister as they finished collecting cups and silverware. The women finished clearing the
table and then Bev brought out dessert. Banana cream pie. Stephanie stayed for dessert.
The adults were sitting at the table. The boys had taken off for the swing set. The sun was starting
to set, and the bugs were starting to come out. Bev lit some candles around them.
"So, Stephanie, where is Todd tonight? Working?" asked George.
"Yes, he is. He is on second shift this month, then he’ll be back on first for the summer.
In August, he’s hoping to have more of a permanent schedule, but that doesn’t always happen. Since we don’t
have kids yet, he gets bounced around more than most."
"What does he do?" asked Derek taking another bite of dessert.
"He’s a state trooper. He’s been doing it for five years."
"Really. Doesn’t his working different shift make it hard for you two to see each other?"
"Not really. I have a home business, so I can usually work the same hours he is working, and then
we are able to spend time together when he is off."
"You have a business? What do you do?"
Abbi was sitting across from Derek, and was watching him intently as he spoke to her sister. He
had a twinkle in his eyes, and a sparkling smile. She hoped he did not know that she was staring at him.
"I have a gift basket business. All type of baskets for all types of occasions. Baby, wedding
, bachelor and bachelorette. Even get well and birthday baskets."
"Is it a local business?"
"It started that way, but now I send baskets where ever they need to go."
"That’s really cool. I might have to call you. My mom has a birthday coming up and I never
know what to get her."
"Sure. Just have Abbi give you my number."
Abbi was still entranced by watching Derek and it took her a few seconds to realize that he had
stopped talking. She shook her head quickly and gathered the dessert dishes.
Derek called to the boys and they came running. "Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton, thank you for the wonderful
dinner. Stephanie, it was wonderful to meet you. And, Abbi, we’ll see you in a couple of weeks."
"That sounds great. I’ll be ready."
The Hamilton family watched as the Alexander family drove away. When the Navigator was out of
sight, Stephanie turned to Abbi and whispered, "Boy is he cute. I wish I was working for him."
"Yeah, I’m sure Todd would love that!" Abbi laughed and playfully pushed her sister.