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Nanny for the Neighbors: Chapter 64


Nerves pulse through me as I tip the baby bottle into Cami’s tiny mouth. She frowns at me, hiding her face in my arm, and I realise I’m holding her too stiffly. I force myself to take a deep breath, relaxing my muscles.

It’s a few hours before my meeting with Hamish, and I’m sitting in our hotel room feeding Cami. She’s lolling against the crook of my arm in her new dinosaur onesie, gumming dejectedly at her bottle.

As she drinks, my eyes flick back to the suit hanging on the back of the wardrobe door. Cyrus rented it for me for my meeting tonight. It stares back at me, taunting me. My leg starts to bounce as anxiety crunches my stomach.

I’m not looking forward to the dinner. I already know I’m going to flub it. I don’t interview well—I get all stressed and nervous and can’t even answer basic questions. Normally, that’s not too much of a big deal, since people don’t usually expect programmers to be social butterflies. But tonight, I really have to knock it out of the park.

God. Maybe I should take a shot of whiskey before I go down, or something.

Cami bleats angrily as my bouncing knee accidentally knocks the bottle out of her mouth.

I go still. “Sorry, baby.”

She glares up at me and latches on again. I sigh, glancing back at the suit.

I know Cyrus is pissed off at me for being so preoccupied with Hamish. I’m pretty sure he thinks Beth’s radio silence is partly because of me ignoring her and focussing on the convention. Even Seb’s been getting irritated with me; although he’s been irritated in general the last few days. Ever since Beth stopped responding to his calls.

I get it. I’m probably being really annoying. But neither of them seem to understand how much this means to me. My whole life, I’ve flown under the radar. I was the kid who locked himself in his room all summer, while my siblings went out and won pre-Olympic tournaments. They were getting interviewed by newspapers while I sat at home and played video games all day.

My parents tried everything to get me to be more social. They hid my consoles. Signed me up for clubs. Forced me to play sports. Nothing ever stuck. I was perfectly happy being introverted and quiet and nerdy, but that didn’t matter; everybody else just wanted me to be like my siblings.

Over time, I got used to being the unimpressive one. I got used to my parents spending all day driving their other kids to and from practices, but expecting me to sit on the bus for six hours to get to a gaming convention. I got used to them spending every single weekend at gymnastics competitions or football games, and not giving a shit when I won a county chess tournament. I got used to them forking out thousands of pounds a month for new trainers and leotards and private classes whenever my siblings asked for them, but refusing to let me join a junior coding course because the five-quid weekly fee was too steep.

I got the message loud and clear—what I wanted just wasn’t as important as what my brothers and sister wanted. And that was okay, because I figured that I was playing the long game. One day, I’d become successful, and I’d prove to everyone that I wasn’t just a stupid kid messing around with video games. I’d prove that I was actually good at this. I had value, even if they didn’t notice it right away.

Being signed on by a massive gaming corp is all I’ve wanted for so, so long, and now it’s hanging right in front of me, close enough to touch. All I have to do is reach out and take it.

Cami finishes her bottle and flops dramatically over in my lap, her face scrunching up. I touch her cheek, and she pouts up at me, her big brown eyes tearing.

“Oh, baby,” I murmur, as she starts to cry again, soaking the front of my shirt. “It’s okay. We’ll be home soon.”

Poor Cami’s hated almost every second of this trip. She’s been sad and grumbly almost the entire time we’ve been here. I wipe off her face and give her a kiss, and she just cries harder, making fists in my shirt. I burp her, but even after, she keeps sobbing like she’s heartbroken.

“I shouldn’t have brought her here.”

I look up at Sebastian. He’s standing in the doorway of the bathroom while Cyrus shaves, watching his daughter with a blank look on his face. He looks exhausted. I’m sure we all do—Cami’s been waking up every half an hour at night. We’ve barely slept all week.

“Maybe she wasn’t ready for a holiday,” I admit. “It’s probably odd for her, being in a new place—”

“It’s not the new place,” he says shortly. “She was left on a bloody doorstep, and a few hours later she was laughing and smiling. Because of Beth.” He looks down at his daughter. “I thought I would be enough for her. But I’m not. I can’t make her happy like Beth can.”

I rub my eyes. “Beth’s a trained professional. You’ve only been a dad for a few weeks. Give yourself a break.”

He looks out of the window, his jaw working. “I’m not good enough for her,” he says quietly. I’m not sure if he’s talking about Beth or Cami.

Before I can ask, my phone rings. I look down and see our landlord’s number flashing across the screen. I immediately accept the call, switching it to speakerphone. “Hello?” I ask. “Is this Bill?”

Seb and Cyrus perk up immediately, coming to sit next to me on the bed.

This is he,” our landlord grumbles. Even down the line, his annoyance is clear.

Not that I care. “Great. Did you see Beth?” I ask, getting straight to the point.

“She’s fine,” he says shortly. I glance up at Cyrus, confused.

“Did she look upset?” He asks over my shoulder.

“She had her makeup all smeared around her face. So either she’s trying a new style I don’t know about, or she’s been crying. You know it’s not my job to spy for you?”

“Shit,” Cyrus moans, running his hands over his face. “Oh, God. Something’s happened. She’s hurt.”

Seb leans forward. “We’re concerned about her well-being,” he says into the receiver. “Did she seem ill? Hurt?

“No. She seems perfectly fine.” He pauses. “So what is it? Is Enzo giving you a better price? That bastard’s always trying to steal my tenants.”


“She’s taking a leaf out of your books, apparently. Said she’s moving out next month. Got a job up in Bristol.” His voice is dripping with disgust. “Come on, Jack. You boys have lived here for years. Don’t you think you owe me a bit of loyalty? At least tell me when some other landlord is trying to fuck me over. That wasteman’s had it out for me ever since I bought this bloody building. I guess this is his idea of revenge, huh?”

“What?” I ask numbly. “I’m sorry, did you say Beth is moving?”

“I’ll tell you this for free—” Bill keeps on ranting. “Enzo might have lower prices, but that idiot’s known for dodging his mortgage payments. If you don’t want to get evicted, you’ll stay here. If I decide to keep you.”

My heart stops in my chest. Cami looks up at me and starts wailing.

Is that a baby?” Bill asks, sounding suspicious. “I’ve had other tenants complaining about a baby crying. It’s not yours, is it?”

“Thank you,” I tell him, and end the call without saying goodbye. None of us say anything for a few seconds. I pull Cami closer to me, trying to comfort her as my mind whirrs.

Beth is upset. She’s ignoring our calls. She’s moving away. Why? What the Hell has happened in these last few days for her to want to cut contact with us? Why does she want to leave us? Why does she want to leave Cami?

Cyrus stands suddenly, bending and yanking his suitcase out from under the bed. I watch as he tugs the wardrobe door open and starts haphazardly pulling out his expensive silk shirts.

“What are you doing?” I ask stupidly.


“But what about the dinner—”

He whirls on me, his eyes flashing. “What do you care about more, Jack? Beth, or making bloody video games?

Without meaning to, I look up again at the suit hanging from the door, my convention pass sticking out of the front pocket. Being invited to a huge event like the AGAME Summit used to be my dream. As a teenager, I imagined what it would be like thousands of times.

But now I’m here—and if I’m honest, I’ve hated almost every moment. The whole time I’ve been here, I’ve been wishing I was somewhere else. With someone else.

“Beth,” I say. “I care about Beth more.” I take a deep breath. “You’re right. We have to go home.”

“Why?” He demands. “You adore your work. You bloody love your work. But you’d drop it to run after Beth. Why?”

“I…” I look down at the baby in my arms. Cami tips her head and looks back at me, her tiny lips pouting.

“You love your work,” Cyrus practically growls, tugging at his hair. “Jesus bloody Christ, Jack, you’re so goddamn thick, I swear to God—”

“I love her more,” I finish. “Beth. I love her.”

Cyrus shakes his head. “God, you’re so bloody stupid.” He kicks his suitcase shut. “There’ll be other work opportunities. Someone book the seats.”

“On it,” Seb says, already tapping at his phone.


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