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Nanny for the Neighbors: Chapter 66


Once I start crying, I just can’t stop. I can’t. I’ve been in so much pain for the last week, and now I finally have the chance to tell somebody, I’m so choked up with emotions that I can’t actually get the words out.

The guys try to help. Jack brings me tissues and water. Cyrus squishes up on the sofa next to me and holds me, his head tipped on my shoulder. Sebastian takes Cami off me, jogging her until she calms down. His face is like a mask.

Eventually, I manage to pull myself together enough to speak. In sputtery, sobbing spurts, I tell them what the doctor said and watch their faces fall.

“Oh, God, Beth,” Jack mutters, pressing his lips to my hair. “Fuck. I’m so, so sorry.”

Cyrus looks heartbroken. He doesn’t say anything; just puts his head in my lap, burying his face in my stomach. My hands automatically go into his hair, threading through the shiny strands.

“It’s just—” I take a shuddery breath. “Um, it’s been a lot to deal with? And now I’m on hormone pills, and I think they’re making me loopy. And I feel like I’ve lost… everything. A whole future I built up for myself in my head. I don’t know where I want my life to go, anymore.” I bite my lip, looking up at Cami. She’s watching me and frowning, her little pink lips pursed as she clings to her dad’s neck. Pain echoes through me. I love nannying, but I just don’t know if I’ll be able to do it anymore. It’ll probably slowly kill me inside, looking after all of those children, but only ever being an employee to them. The thought makes my insides shrivel.

Sebastian’s silent for a long time. “We spoke to Cami’s mother,” he says eventually.

Shock stabs me. I stare at him. “What?

“When we were in America.” His face is cold and inscrutable. “She’s out of rehab. We all Skyped her. With Cami.”

I mean, if he wanted me to stop crying, it definitely worked. Mostly because I can’t even breathe anymore. I gulp. My fingers clench into fists at my sides. “No,” I whisper. “No, no.”

He doesn’t respond. Cami looks between us, her eyes wide, then cuddles into her dad’s chest. My heart breaks. He’s going to leave her. He’s going to give her back. “No,” I repeat. “You can’t.”

“Beth—” Jack starts.

“You’re getting rid of her?” I’m shouting now. “How could you?!

Sebastian raises an eyebrow, like I’m the one being unreasonable. And not him, the man who is literally abandoning his child with a woman who left her on a doorstep like a motherfucking hamper. “We’re not getting rid of her—” He starts.

“Oh, shut up. Of course you are. Let me guess, you’re going to schedule weekend visits. Then they’ll become bi-weekly visits, then monthly, then yearly, until in a few years’ time, the only contact she’ll have with you is the occasional birthday card, when you remember that she exists. I know how this works, Seb, I’ve seen it over, and over, and over again—”

“We’re. Not. Getting. Rid. Of. Her,” he says again, enunciating every word slowly. “We had to talk to Anisha. She’s clean. She’s doing better. And, like it or not, Cami is her child.”

“She doesn’t deserve to be! I’m sorry, but abandoning her baby on a stranger’s doorstep isn’t exactly evidence of great childcare!” I shake my head. “Cami could’ve died! It was cold outside! Why the Hell would you let that woman anywhere near her again? How could you do that to your daughter?” I look between the other men, my eyes blazing. “Is that it? You go on one work trip, you get one amazing offer, and suddenly, you’re ready to abandon your whole family because you figure your bloody game company is more important?”

Seb steps forward. “We’re not getting rid of her!” He barks. How many times do I have to say it?” His cheeks are red with anger. “For God’s sake, what the Hell have I done to make you think I would just give up my daughter?!”

“You talked about putting her in care!”

What?” Cyrus says.

Seb’s face is thunderous. “That was before. Before you told me all the shit in my head was wrong, and I could be a good father to her.” His jaw locks. He’s breathing hard. “You said I could do this. You were a hundred percent sure.”

“I still am. You’re a great father.”

He laughs, but the sound is hollow. “I’m obviously not, if you think I’ll give my child to the woman who abandoned her.” Cami pats his cheek, smiling, and he takes a deep breath, obviously trying to calm himself down. “I called Anisha because I wanted to make sure she was certain. I needed to know if she’d ever come back and try to take Cami away from us.”

That takes the wind out of my sails. I look at him, breathing hard. “What did she say?”

“She doesn’t want anything to do with her. She’s willing to sign away custody.” He looks down at his daughter. “Cami’s mine.”

My head is whirling. “But what if she said she wanted her back? What would you have done then?”

“Then I’d call my lawyers. And fight like Hell for our daughter.”

My stomach sours. “Your daughter,” I point out. “I’m not her mother. I’m her nanny.”

His eyes narrow on me. “She might be my child, but she loves you. For God’s sake, Bethany. I don’t understand how, after everything you’ve been through growing up, you’d let her fall in love with you, and then leave her.”

I blink. “What?”

“Bill said that you were moving to Bristol.” A muscle tics in his jaw. “You can’t just bloody abandon her,” he snaps. “What the Hell, Beth? I understand if our… relationship makes you uncomfortable. If you don’t want to be with us, that’s fine, but you should’ve just said.” He points at Cami. She starts sucking his finger. “This little girl will always be more important than us. She is our first priority. And you just want to up and leave her for some other job as soon as things get difficult? Does the other position pay more, or something? You want a raise?”

I scowl. “Oh, piss off. You’re moving, too. Bill told me. You have no right to be mad at me.”

Seb’s eyes flash. He opens his mouth to argue, but Jack glares up at him, taking my hand.

“We’re not mad at you,” he says softly. “We just want to understand. Why would you want to move?”

His gentleness melts away the anger burning inside me. I sag against the couch cushions. “It wasn’t a proper plan,” I whisper. “It was a… safety measure. I needed something. Just in case…” I trail off.

“In case of what?” He asks quietly.

I shrug. Saying it sounds pathetic. I sound pathetic. “In case you didn’t want me, anymore. In case you left me. You weren’t answering my calls. Bill told me that you three were moving. I figured, if you decided to up and leave, I’d lose all of you, and Cami, and a job, and like, most of my friends. I had to have a backup plan.”

“Why would you jump to that conclusion?” Sebastian snaps. Irritation flares back up in me.

“Why do you think?” I practically growl. “What fucking massive life event have I been through that might possibly lead me to the conclusion that no one actually ever fucking wants me?” I push my hair back with shaking hands. “I’m not being insecure, I’m being logical. I’ve been rejected by every family I’ve ever had. I…” I swallow hard, choking into silence.

“What?” Cyrus mumbles into my stomach. He sounds pained. “You what, Bethie?”

“I went to see my birth mum,” I admit, and he groans. “And my grandma. I just felt so lonely. And they were the only family I had.” A dry sob bursts from my throat. “Th-they told me to piss off. My mum has a husband. They have kids. They’re only a few years younger than me, for God’s sake. And she loves them. She loves them to death, but she won’t even let me step onto the property.”

Cyrus burrows closer. “Beth—”

I wipe my cheeks. “I wasn’t asking to call her mum. I didn’t want money. I didn’t want her to treat me like her child. I just wanted to talk to her. To… learn about my family. I—” My hand floats to my stomach. “This thing that I have, it’s genetic. And I don’t know, because even though she’s forty years old, she still refuses to come to terms with the fact that I’m her child. She could’ve told me, and I would’ve frozen my eggs. She’s had more than enough time. But she didn’t.” I swallow thickly. “And my grandma. She said that she tried to love me, but she couldn’t. That I was an insufferable child. And…” I trail off, my breath hiccuping in my chest, and bury my face in my hands. “I don’t know,” I whisper. “It just got loud. I’m sorry.”

Sugar.” And then Cyrus is holding me. “Oh my God. Baby.” He nuzzles into my neck. “You couldn’t tell us?”

“I tried. I called so many times, and you were always busy. And…” I lick my lips. “It’s hard for me. To keep calling. I’ve done it before. Hundreds of times, when I was a kid. I hung on to foster parents like a starving dog begging for treats. Now that I’m older, I know what it means. I’ve been rejected by everyone that I ever wanted to love me.” I look up at Sebastian, tears streaming down my face. “So, I’m sorry I didn’t call. I’m sorry I thought about moving. I didn’t know what else to do.”

Sebastian’s silent for a moment, his eyes tight. Very slowly, he hands Cami to Jack, then turns back to me. “You,” he says quietly, “are so dumb.”

“Wh-what?” I choke.

“We’re trying to comfort her, stop insulting her,” Cy mutters. Seb shakes his head.

“You’re dumb,” he insists, dropping to his knees in front of the sofa and reaching for me. His lips crush against mine, and I gasp as he kisses me hard, his hands coming to thread in my greasy, gross hair. It’s a desperate kiss, full of pain and longing and fear. I quiver underneath him.

“We love you,” he says, pulling back to look me in the eyes. “love you. We’re not going anywhere without you.”

“What?” I whisper, my heart pounding. “But you’re moving.”

Seb nods, stroking back my curls. “We want you to move with us. We need someplace bigger. You can have your own bedroom. We’d have space for Cami. A proper kitchen, so we can all sit and eat together. A garden. We don’t want to raise this baby in a bachelor pad. We haven’t started looking at houses yet; we were going to do it with you, when we got home. But the landlord was asking for rent, so we warned him in advance that we might not be living here for the next three months. That’s it.”

I can’t breathe. I’m still crying. “You’re n-not going?”

He touches our foreheads together, his eyes burning fiercely into mine. “We’re not going anywhere without you. As long as you want us, you’re part of this family.” He kisses me again. “We love you,” he repeats fiercely.

“I can’t believe you were scared to tell us,” Cyrus whispers. I look up at him. His brown eyes are shiny.

I cup his cheek. “Jesus. No. Don’t cry.

“You were hurting so much. All alone.” He grabs my hand, squeezing. “Baby. None of us want to leave you. I can’t even imagine a life without you.”

Jack shifts, passing Cami to me. “Please don’t leave us,” he says quietly. “We need you. She needs you.”

I look down at Cami in my arms. She’s nestled herself happily inside my boobs, mouthing at my t-shirt. My throat burns with tears.

“No one’s ever needed me,” I whisper. “Not once in my life.”

All three men groan simultaneously. I take a deep, shaky breath and look between each of them. “I love you,” I say. It’s the first time I’ve said those words in years. “All of you. I love you.”

“We love you too, Bethie.” Cy whispers, kissing frantically down the crook of my neck. “We love you. Love you, love you, love you.”

“So much,” Jack adds. “Please don’t move to Bristol. We’ll miss you so much we’ll have to follow you. I don’t wanna live in Bristol.”

Seb gives me one last kiss, his lips lingering on mine. “You’re our family now,” he murmurs, and my heart just about breaks. “You belong with us.”


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