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Nanny for the Neighbors: Chapter 57


Cami is peaceful as anything as we drive to the airport, check in, and wait for the plane. She eats some mashed banana while we sit in Costa, then snoozes the whole time we’re boarding. As we settle into our seats on the plane, I’m feeling almost proud. Maybe I’m not a completely and utterly shit father, after all. Maybe I don’t need Beth.

Then the plane takes off. It turns out, our little baby is afraid of flying.

One hour into the flight, and I think I’m going deaf. She’s been wailing in my ear, screaming at the top of her lungs, ever since the wheels left the ground. Other passengers are tutting and frowning. My head is starting to pound. I dry off her wet cheeks and try giving her a dummy, but she just spits it out and cries even louder. I’m so frustrated I want to scream. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong.

Bringing Cami to America with us was supposed to be an experiment. Beth’s incredible, but she’s a crutch. I realised it the other day, when we were lying in bed, and she told us that she was still taking on other jobs. She’s looking after other children. She loves other children.

It hit me like a bucket of cold water: Beth’s not our girlfriend. She’s not Cami’s mum. We’re not a family. Cami is a job to her. A job she will probably choose to move on from one day.

I love having Beth around. But I need to be able to look after Cami alone.

The only problem is, I don’t think that I can.

“I’ll take her,” Jack offers, opening his arms. “Maybe she just wants a walk.”

“Ah, yes,” Cyrus drawls from my other side. “Take her on a scenic tour of the tiny flying metal tube. Maybe a visit to the coffin-sized bathroom will calm her down.”

Jack flips him off and scoops a wailing Cami up, bouncing her in his arms as he carries her away.

“Excuse me?” I turn to see a middle-aged woman across the aisle leaning towards us, disapproval all over her face. “But where is that child’s mother?”

Cyrus slings an arm around me and puts his head on my shoulder. “She doesn’t have one. Don’t be homophobic.”

The woman shuts up quickly. I shove him off, pulling my laptop out of my computer bag and setting it on the tray table. With my hands free, I can finally get some work done. I go straight to my email and start scanning through my inbox. A message from our landlord pops out at me.

“You still haven’t paid your part of the rent,” I tell Cy, scanning the contents. “You got it?”

“Shit, sorry. Yeah, I have it.” He runs a hand through his hair. “I’ve actually been thinking; we should probably move out, right? Our place isn’t exactly baby-friendly. We can get somewhere with a nursery, or a playroom. Between Beth and the baby, I don’t think our three-bedroom is really cutting it.” He squints down the aisle. “We need one of those massive beds kings used to have orgies in.”

“Agreed. Cami needs her own space. And I’d like her to have a garden to play in. We’ll start looking as soon as we get back to England.” I start typing a message to Bill. “I’ll tell him we’ll pay rent monthly instead of quarterly.”

A flight attendant walks by, pushing the drinks trolley in front of her. “Can I get you guys anything?” She asks sweetly, unabashedly checking Cyrus out. He doesn’t even look at her. “Tea? Coffee?”

I remember Beth’s advice about the hot water and grimace. “I think we’re fine,” I tell her, and she gives Cyrus one last longing look, trundling the cart past us.

Cyrus frowns after her, fiddling with his bracelets. “D’you think we should ask Beth to move in with us?”

My fingers freeze over the keyboard. I clear my throat to ease the sudden tension. “I suppose having a live-in nanny is pretty common—”

He rolls his eyes. “Cut the crap. You know what I mean. We should ask her to move in as our girlfriend.”

“She’s made her opinions on dating pretty clear,” I point out. “Multiple times. It would be disrespectful to ignore that.”

“I’m not suggesting we hold the girl at gunpoint and force her to marry us. We’d just be putting the option on the table. Letting her know that, if she ever does feel ready for a relationship, we’re down.”

I hesitate. Even if Beth did want to move in—which I really doubt—I don’t know if it’s a good idea. Cami’s already lost one mother; it seems cruel to make Beth an important part of her life, when we don’t even know if she’ll stay.

Before I can formulate a response, I hear the familiar sound of my daughter’s wails coming down the aisle. The walk has not calmed Cami down. She’s shrieking like an air-raid siren. Jack slumps back into his seat.

“It’s useless,” he mutters. “Let’s be honest, we all know why she’s crying.” He pats her back, pressing a kiss to her hair.

“She misses Beth,” Cyrus finishes. “Look, ladybug. I miss her, too. But I’m not deafening innocent bystanders. I keep all my crying on the inside. You’ll learn to do that when you’re older.” He strokes her wet cheek, then pulls her toy bunny out of his satchel. “Here. Cuddle your favourite teddy.”

She takes the bunny, then drops it sulkily. Cyrus sighs, and Jack grabs his stuffed lion. They both bend over the baby, trying to distract her with her toys.

I tune them out, scrolling down my inbox—then freeze, as I see a flagged email from my lawyer. I open it and scan the first few lines, my heart sinking. Shit. Shit. Shit. “We have to call Cami’s mother,” I say suddenly.

Jack and Cyrus both look up with identical looks of horror. “What?”

“She’s just got out of rehab,” I read. “We need to speak with her about Cami.” I open a new email and start drafting a response. “We need to ask her what her intentions were when she left Cami with us. She never said if it was meant to be long-term, or she just wanted someone to take care of her while she got clean.”

No,” Cy snaps. “No way.”

“What if she takes one look at Cami and decides she wants her back?” Jack points out. “Who the Hell wouldn’t want her as their daughter?”

“Then we talk about it,” I say, nausea squeezing my throat.

Cyrus’s mouth falls open. “Are you freaking kidding me? She doesn’t belong to that woman, she’s ours.”

“We have to speak to her,” I insist. “I don’t care if it’s in-person, or over Skype, or in a bloody email. But we need to know that she really doesn’t want her. That she’s not going to try and take her back.”

Even the thought of losing Cami is horrendous at this point. I have plenty of sympathy for addicts; addiction is a disease, and it should be treated like one. But, addiction or not, Cami’s mother is still responsible for her actions. My sympathy doesn’t stretch to someone abandoning my child on a fucking doorstep, where she could have been kidnapped or hurt or frozen to death.

I press my lips together as I type out the email. I seriously doubt her mother could regain custody of Cami soon; but in a year or two, if she stays clean and has a change of heart, she might want her kid back. I know the court is often skewed in the mother’s favour in custody cases. I need to know I can keep Cami with me. I can’t spend her whole childhood wondering if she’s going to get taken away.

The guys lapse into silence. Cami’s wailing reaches a new crescendo, and a very familiar smell reaches my nostrils.

“Oh, fu—dge,” Cyrus says. “Crap. Crap, crap, crap.” He lifts Cami, who is now squirming in her extremely full nappy, and passes her to me. “Your sperm, man.”

“We have to change her in that broom closet?” Jack asks, sounding horrified. “How is that even possible?”

“What if there’s turbulence?” I mutter, clutching Cami closer. She presses her face into my neck, wetting my collar with tears. “What if I drop her?”

There’s a long pause. Cyrus slumps back in his seat. “I miss Beth,” he mutters.


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