This isn’t my first day. If I had been counting, it was close to my 200th day. To be honest, I hate kids and can’t believe I’ve survived this job for that long, but the kids are pretty self-sufficient and it’s easy money, so why not?
Chase is eight years old, and Tabitha is almost 11. I was a little surprised when their parents told me their ages during my interview. Do kids that old really need a nanny? Like I said, I’m not a kid person, so who am I to judge? They mostly keep to themselves, I’m just here to feed and chauffer them. Every now and then, they’ll pull me into the backyard, excited the way kids with a secret get, and show me something they think is incredible, and I think is probably a pile of garbage they tried to sculpt into a bust of Justin Bieber or somebody. They’re so sweet about it, I usually smile and compliment them, but I don’t see what the fuss is all about. What can I say? They’ve grown on me, so I humor them.
Their parents are such busy people, constantly flying off to fancy places for business, not that I know what they do for a living, but they’re obviously both big deals wherever they work. Their house is gigantic, and they can afford a live-in nanny, so that says something. I kind of enjoy living in their home with their lowkey kids with them not around. Sometimes I pretend it’s my home, and I flounce around in my swishiest clothing, mimicking some old-fashioned housewife in need of a cocktail and a young pool boy. Of course, that’s only when the Mr. and the Mrs. are out of town and the kids are in school. I’m a respectful person after all.
Today is a miserable day for everyone. I woke up unbothered by the soft rain smacking my window, in fact, I was pleased to hear it. I love rain, so I was prepared to take a drive or sit by a window listening to soothing, natural music with a book in my hand. As if there were cameras on me that alerted the kids’ parents I was suddenly awake, my phone blasted its ringtone aggressively in my ear.
“Dorothy, good morning. I just got a notification that it’s raining where you are, is that right?” The Mrs. had her usual calm and in-charge tone, but I suspected a hint of concern. Did she think I would hit a puddle while driving her kids to school and kill us all?
“Uh, yeah, just a little I think. I haven’t peeked out the window yet.” I rubbed at the corner of my eye with the heel of my hand, removing all signs of sleep so I could jump into work mode. Before I could set both feet on the floor to check, she was slicing through the conversation.
“I just want to remind you of the second clause in your contract. Under no circumstances can the children go outside in the rain. You remember, yes?” There was that concern again. I was slightly taken aback by it, but now that she said it, I do remember that clause. I remember thinking it was odd at the time, but that it probably wouldn’t be a factor in sunny San Diego. I sort of tossed that clause aside when we signed that contract.
“Uh, oh, yeah, no I definitely remember, but thanks for the heads up. I appreciate the warning before I stepped outside and was surprised by the rain, haha.” I’m putting on my fake enthusiasm for the boss lady, hoping she doesn’t catch on to my complete forgetfulness.
“Alright. Good.” Phew, she bought it. I hold onto the pause, expecting her to deliver more information.
“Just … keep them inside today. And thank you, Dorothy. You’re an amazing nanny, we are so grateful to have you.” That felt awkward and forced. What is going on with this lady today? I believe her business trip is in Miami and her husband is in Chicago, so maybe I should anticipate a second phone call from him in an hour as he wakes up, too.
I pull the phone away from my face to double check the time and my heart sinks. It’s barely 5 am. I could blame this phone call for being awake, but I have to admit, my eyes were already fluttering open. It was that eclectic rain that woke me up, and now I’d never get back to sleep. I might as well get up and start my day.
“Of course, we’ll stay away from the rain today. You have nothing to worry about.” That better ease her nerves, because I was already planning a calm and relaxing day at home, alone, but now I have to reimagine all that to include the kids. I’m sure their school will love to hear I’m keeping them home to avoid the rain. I can hear the eye rolls from here.
“Wonderful, thank you. We’ll talk soon. Goodbye.” She hung up and I exhaled. I can’t help but tense up when I speak to the parents over the phone. They don’t make me this nervous when we’re face to face, but maybe that’s because I can read their body language that way. Over the phone, silence could mean anything.
I might as well get dressed and start breakfast. The rain is still hitting the window, emitting a relaxing tune, so as I pull shirts over my head and sweatpants up my legs, I’m not paying attention to what I’m wearing. It’s not like these youngsters can shame me for my lack of fashion, not that they haven’t tried. They’re lucky I’m not walking around in my grandma’s bathrobe.
In a trance, I leave my entire wardrobe on my bedroom floor and slink off to the kitchen. I’m just tired and fuzzy enough to commit to an elaborate breakfast with sliced fruits, French toasts, yogurts, granolas and every type of juice known to man. If I had any sense I would have poured a couple bowls of Lucky Charms and been done with it, so I could focus on my own cup of coffee while I sit in the window, watching the beautiful morning fall down around me. But no, I decided to spoil the kids with something exquisite before I break the news that they’re trapped indoors all day. They won’t be heartbroken that they can’t go to school, but they certainly won’t be happy.
An hour later and the kitchen is a monumental disaster. Every pot, pan, and utensil has been used for something. I’m no cook, so sometimes I get creative with my food-based creations, and those times usually result in big messes. The waffle maker is oozing something that might have been delicious batter at one point, and the sink is overflowing with dirty metal. For such a huge kitchen, I’m running out of space fast.
A buzzer dings on the oven and my last batch of croissants finish. Just in the nick of time. I hear footsteps above me, warning of the impending stampede. Actually, I don’t know if two children can constitute a stampede, but I’ve seen those two kids trample their fair share of toys, books, and really any household item left out on the floor, so it feels like an appropriate description.
Quickly, I set the rest of the table with breakfast, and before I can blink, both Chase and Tabitha are sitting in front of me, gorging on the food I spent all morning slaving over. At least they like it.
“Well good morning! It’s wonderful to see you guys, too!” I can’t help myself; I’m chuckling.
“Good morning, Dorothy!” they both mumble with full mouths before diving back for more spoonful’s. I pick up my cold coffee from the kitchen counter and join the kids at the table. It’s time to break the bad news.
“So, as I’m sure you both know, it’s raining this morning.” I’m trying to ease into it, but they both stop eating. They know what I’m about to say. Tabitha takes a moment to swallow her mouthful and wipe with the cloth napkin I placed next to her plate, then launch into a counterattack.
“Please, Dorothy, I can’t miss school today! I just can’t!” she pleads. Chase is a little less dignified in his approach. Food crumbles and spews out of his mouth as he shouts at me.
“Yeah, I was going to show Jake my new Action Man Andrew toy!”
“Hey, I’m not the one calling the shots on this. You both know how your parents feel about …” I’m not sure what it is their parents have strong feelings about, so I just wave one hand in the air while I make a weird face. I’m sure the kids get my meaning.
“Besides, you can’t be that upset about missing one day of school. I mean, it won’t kill you.” I giggle. In my day, we would be ecstatic to miss a day of school. But these kids were actually bummed. What a generational gap.
“Please, Dorothy, please! Please!” It’s like Tabitha forgot her entire vocabulary and got stuck on repeat.
“Tabitha, I’m sorry, but you know I can’t let you leave. But let’s say if the rain clears up by the afternoon we can all get outside for some park time, huh?” All I can do is shrug and hope they don’t kill the messenger. Tabitha is on the verge of tears, and I don’t know how to console her, but Chase is visibly irritated.
“Man, what a load!” he barks, still drooling syrup and yogurt.
“Hey buddy, that’s not really appropriate language, is it?” I nudge him gently. I’m not trying to add insult to injury, or maybe for this occasion it’s the other way around. Chase folds his arms over his chest and ignores me as he continues chewing. Tabitha looks vacant, also ignoring her food. I can’t believe their reactions are so strong. I mean, I thought they would be disappointed, but Tabitha looks ready to fall down dead and Chase looks ready to burn the house down. Gosh, today is going to be rougher than I thought.
“Okay, well, I’m really sorry you two have to stay home, but I hope having me for company will cheer you up. Maybe? Huh? What do you think?” This is my biggest, brightest smile and I don’t whip it out for just any reason. Looking from one to the other, I’m hoping to steal a smile back, but they’ve both utterly tuned me out.
“Great, I love the energy. I’ll just leave you to finish the breakfast I put so much thought into and be over there, leaving you guys alone.” I’m mumbling more to myself at this point, since neither of them are listening to me. I need to all the school anyway, make sure the kids aren’t marked down as skipping classes.
The office is off the foyer and across from the formal dining room, so quite a distance from the kitchen where I left the kids, but I’ll leave the door open during my phone call so I can hear them in case of excessive mischief. Sitting at the massive wooden desk, I scramble through the papers in the corner that the parents instructed me to organize for just such occasions. The phone number to the school was on a half sheet of paper, which I found buried under a few other loose sheets. I cross my legs, feeling oh so professional in someone else’s elegant chair and also very out of place. I pick up the receiver and the dial the number effortlessly.
“Hello, I need to give notice of two students who won’t be attending classes today due to inclement weather. It’s Tabitha and Ch—” I can’t put my finger on what exactly it sounded like, but my best guess was an enormous, dying bird. Or maybe an elephant. Or a gorilla running its nails down a chalk board, but either way, it was gut-wrenching and earsplitting. My body had a violent reaction to it; I wanted to cry and pull my hair out, and for some reason my stomach gave a jerk to let me know I might ralph. I’ve never heard a noise so vicious that I wanted to vomit before. What in the hell was that? Another burst, then it was silent.
I didn’t bother hanging up the phone, whoever I was talking to would just have to wait, but that sound was too close, and the kids weren’t near enough to keep me from worrying. I dash into the hallway and start screaming for the kids.
“Hey guys, where are you? Did you hear that?” I’m fast, already in the kitchen and searching every inch of the large space for two small kids. They’re not here, but where could they have gotten to so quickly? I would have heard their feet stomping if they bolted upstairs. Frantically, I spin and spin, looking for the kids through the blur, then an irrational idea strikes me. They wouldn’t try to sneak off to school under my nose, would they? If they did that, why didn’t that awful, terrifying sound scare them back into the house? What if they meant to sneak off, but once they stepped outside somebody grabbed them? What if those sounds were the kids as they were being kidnapped? Am I overreacting? I’m panicked, but is there anyway that their parents knew this would happen and that’s why the kids were forbidden from going outside in the rain? Damn, everything sounds crazy, but somewhere in there something real and something bad happened.
I shake off my hairbrained theories and rush into the backyard, hoping there’s some kind of sign. Being kidnapped fits the bill, but that’s got to be the worst-case scenario. My bare feet squish through the damp grass as I step into the yard, and immediately I see two mounds that weren’t there yesterday. I can’t for the life of me figure out what I’m looking at, but it’s the closest thing to a clue about the kids’ whereabouts I have.
There’s an odor coming off them, like rotten eggs. Maybe it was this smell that made me want to hurl earlier, because I feel the urge creeping back in. And, is that steam? These two lumpy piles in the middle of the backyard are steaming. I might not have a degree in any kind of science, but I know in cold rain, the only thing steaming is something that was, until recently, very hot. What back here was hot enough for that? I’m so confused.
As I step up to the first pile, I’m suddenly filled with regret. If that doesn’t answer it absolutely nothing will. I look over to the second mound only a few feet away. Sure enough, I’m looking at two bodies of coal, dressed in what Tabitha and Chase had been wearing when I saw them at breakfast. I can see their sooty skeletons perfectly revealed under the wet clothes.
My hunch: the rain just melted my kids.