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Nanny for the Neighbors: Epilogue


On the second Sunday in March, I wake up in an empty bed. I stretch, patting around the pillows for a warm body to cuddle into, and find nothing.

Which is odd. Normally I’m the first up. Maybe the second, if Cami decides she needs her breakfast at some ungodly hour, or Seb has an international phone call he needs to take. But I don’t even remember the last time I woke up without at least one of my men sprawled in the bed with me.

I sit up, looking around the master bedroom. When we first moved in here, it was sophisticated and elegant: all glossy white walls and hardwood floors. In the last year and a half, however, it’s been thoroughly Cami-fied. There are toys and story books piled up on the floor, and tiny clothes draped over the back of the armchair. The walls are covered with drawings and framed photographs. I smile as I let my eyes drift over them. There’s one of Cami and Seb in the kitchen, stirring a bowl of cake mixture on Jack’s birthday. One of us all at the swimming pool, splashing each other while Cami sits on Cyrus’s shoulders in her little pink armbands. One from last winter, of me and Cami making snow angels in the park. Cyrus’s little sister is in the background, beaming at her tiny niece.

It took a while, but all of the boys eventually told their families about me and Cami. Jack’s parents welcomed us both with open arms. They might be rigidly sport-obsessed, but they have surprisingly relaxed views about relationships. And they’re so proud of Jack. When he sat them down and actually explained to them what he did for work, they were over the moon. His mum texts me every day, asking for help solving a new level. She’s not very phone-savvy, but she’s still determined to play every one of her son’s games. It’s very sweet.

Cyrus hasn’t invited his parents to visit, but his sisters drop in and out of the house whenever they like. They’re all enamoured with Cami. Lucy finally got to hook up with Hunky Harry, and they promptly got pregnant, so she’s always dragging him over to ‘practise’ looking after a kid.

We’ve seen Ellen and Steve once since our disastrous visit up to Macclesfield. They came to dinner a few weeks after we moved house. I’d hoped that they would apologise for their behaviour, but they were just as rude and abrasive as last time. I endured roughly thirty minutes of them smack-talking Seb and Cami, before I gave up and ordered them both to leave. I’m not letting them come into my house and degrade the people I love. It’s not good for Seb, and it’s certainly not a good environment for Cami.

I see Carl and the twins pretty often, too; whenever he comes to London for work. Sarah never visits, but I don’t care. I don’t want to see her anyway. It’s an odd family we’ve built ourselves, but in a lot of ways, it’s better than a blood family. We only surround ourselves with people that really care about us. We don’t have to love anybody who doesn’t love us back. It’s the kind of family I used to dream of as a child.

I hear low voices coming from the kitchen and slide out of bed, grabbing my dressing gown and toeing my feet into my bunny slippers. I need my morning cuddles, stat.

I pad down the hallway and put my hand on the kitchen door handle, but before I can turn it, the door swings open. Jack steps in front of me, blocking my path.

“Hey, baby,” I smile up at him.

He always looks adorable first thing in the morning, with his blue eyes all sleepy behind his glasses. He hasn’t shaved yet, and gold stubble glints on his jaw. I pop up onto my tiptoes for a quick kiss, then try to duck under his arm. “I need caffeine, please.”

He steps in my path. “You can’t go in there,” he declares.

I blink up at him. “Why not? I just want some coffee.”

“We… uh.” He looks behind him. There’s a sudden loud clatter from inside the kitchen. “I was trying to make pancakes. But I screwed up and burned them.”

I try to look over his shoulder. He’s over a foot taller than me, so it doesn’t really work. “Really? It’s probably not that bad. I don’t smell burning.”

Jack hesitates. “I mean, I exploded them. Not burned. Exploded. I get those words mixed up sometimes.”

I frown. “How did you explode a pancake—”

“I used the mixer and got batter everywhere,” he says quickly. “Absolute carnage. Seb’s trying to get it off the ceiling tiles right now.”

“That’s okay, babe. I can help clean it up.” I try to push past him.

He grabs my shoulders, pushing me back. “I’m afraid that’s not possible,” he says, wide-eyed. “It’s too shameful. You’ll fall out of love with me immediately. For the sake of our relationship, you cannot go in there.”

I sigh. “Jack, what’s going on? I just want a coffee, I don’t give a shit if you spilled some batter.”

He looks panicked. “Look, just—”

Seb appears in the doorway and hands Jack two mugs of coffee without a word. Relief floods Jack’s face. He pushes them at me. “There we go. Lovely coffee. Cy’s in the living room, you should take it to him.”

I stare at him. “Okay,” I say slowly. “Do I have a choice?”

“Absolutely not.” He spins me around, giving me an encouraging pat on the butt. “Off you go.”

Bemused, I follow orders, obediently carrying the mugs into the living room.

Cy is sitting in his favourite armchair with Cami on his lap, brushing out her hair and chattering to her in a mixture of English and Bengali. “You want one or two pigtails?” He asks, bunching up her hair in a pineapple on top of her head, then repeating the question in Bengali.

She considers, then bounces in his arms, babbling. I’ve picked up enough of the language to know she’s said two. He quickly ties up her hair in bunches, fastening them with her favourite rainbow glitter scrunchies, then presses a kiss to her head.

“You look stunning,” he tells her seriously. “Very sparkly.” He glances up as I step closer. “Hey, baby.” I pass him the coffee, and he tips his lips up to kiss me. “You look hot.”

I snort. He says that to me every morning, whether I’m in lingerie, or hungover in old, stained pajamas. “So do you, Romeo.”

He pulls a face. “Will you ever let that go?”

“I’m carving it into your gravestone, gorgeous.” I perch on the chair’s arm and take a deep swig from my mug.

Tragically, Randy Romeo has finally been retired. After doing the show for so many years, Cyrus eventually got bored of it. He now works as a dance instructor at the local gym, and also gets paid a pretty hefty salary as the official spokesperson for Trinity Games.

That’s not to say he’s stopped stripping, mind. I get a front-row seat to a private show whenever I like. Which is usually at least once a week.

Cami tugs on my dressing gown. I smile down at her. “Good morning, baby.”

“Herro mummy,” she says, beaming up at me. I tickle her neck, hiding the sudden pang that hits my stomach. Cami’s just turned two, and her speech is coming along great. Unfortunately, she insists on calling me mummy. I don’t know where she’s getting it from. I’ve never called myself mummy in front of her. I guess she must have picked it up from TV or a picture book.

It hurts. I actually applied to adopt her a few months ago, but nothing came of it. I can’t say that I’m surprised, considering our unconventional living situation, but it still felt like a kick in the guts.

I run my fingers through Cy’s hair. “Do you know what Seb and Jack are up to? I’m banned from the kitchen.”

Cy nods. “They have a surprise for you. They’re just setting it up.”

“A surprise? What for?”

He smiles, his eyes secretive. “Can’t say, sugar. But you’ll find out soon enough.” He grabs me by the hips and pulls me onto his lap, making me squeak as I lose my balance.


“What? You know I love chucking girls around.” Cami crawls up onto my lap, so Cyrus is squished under both of us. He sighs happily, patting around the sofa for his phone. “We’ve got an hour to kill. Cartoon time?” He brings up YouTube.

“Arfur!” Cami demands, dropping her sippy cup of juice.

“We can do Arthur,” I agree, picking it up again.

“Anything but Caillou,” Cyrus mutters, zapping the telly. We curl up together as the show starts. I sip my coffee, Cami chugs happily at her juice, and Cyrus strokes his big hand up and down my arm, occasionally pressing a kiss to both of our cheeks. I can’t help but smile to myself. I love these easy, mundane moments. We’re just watching cartoons on a Sunday morning, but I couldn’t be happier.

As the episode finishes, a YouTube ad starts to play. One that I’m very familiar with.

“Oh, look!” Cy says loudly, turning up the volume. “It’s the most stunning video game character ever created!”

I groan. I swear to God, this advert is haunting me. It’s for Jack’s latest game, Spear. Trinity Games has been going from strength to strength. Jack and Seb now have a crew of twenty full-time employees, and for their latest game, they got a contract with a major advertising company. Now the commercial is everywhere on the internet. The game is awesome: a cross between Indiana Jones and Tomb Raider. The only problem is—

Cami examines the screen. “Is mummy.”

They based the artwork for the main female character on me. I thought it was cute at the time; but now my digitalised face is splashed on YouTube ads and posters and game sites. I even have people recognising me in the street, which the boys find hilarious.

“Yep.” Cyrus looks at me slyly. “Isn’t mummy pretty?”

“Yes!” Cami giggles, like it’s a stupid question.

I elbow him. “Don’t call me that,” I hiss.

He snorts. “What is she supposed to call you? Bethany?”

I lunge for his phone. “Skip the ad.”

“Nope. I have a crush on that character. I think I might be in love with her.” He sighs. “If only she were real.”

I try to grab the phone again, but I’m interrupted when the door to the kitchen swings open, and Jack steps into the lounge. He’s got flour smudged over his cheek.

“We’re ready!” He announces. “You have to go back to the bedroom, sweetheart.”

I snort, snuggling into Cyrus’s chest. You couldn’t pay me to move right now. “Make me.”

“Okay,” Cyrus says cheerfully, nipping my earlobe as Jack takes Cami out of my arms. Cy waits until she’s safely out of reach, then stands, picking me up and carrying me towards the bedroom. I hook my arms around his neck and kiss his throat, trying to distract him. He just grumbles and gives my bum a slap, pushing through our bedroom door. When we step inside, my mouth falls open.

The bedroom has been transformed. There are pink streamers on the walls and vases of fresh flowers on the bedside tables. Bunches of pink and white balloons float around the bed. Cami stares at them like she’s been hypnotised.

Cyrus deposits me neatly in the middle of the mattress, and Sebastian appears, placing a large tray in front of me. I stare at the spread that they’ve laid out; four giant stacks of pancakes, chocolate sauce, syrup, blueberries, tea, orange juice. There’s a carnation sitting in a glass of water, and a box of chocolates tied up in a silky ribbon.

“Yikes. This is awkward,” I say. “Guys, my birthday was last month, remember? Are you all going simultaneously senile?”

Cyrus pinches my hip.

“Cami’s not really big enough to cook you pancakes yet,” Jack explains. “So we’ve taken over this year.”

I laugh. “What does that mean? Why would jellybean be cooking my breakfast?”

“It’s traditional,” Seb says, which makes absolutely no sense. Still, I don’t want to look a gift horse in the mouth. Cami crawls across the bed towards me, and I tuck her under my arm, ripping off a piece of pancake and holding it to her mouth. “Want the first taste, baby?”

She takes a little bite and chews thoughtfully, her tiny face scrunching into a frown. “Yummy?” I ask. “Or did your daddies burn it again?”

“Is yummy!” She declares, throwing her hands up.

Jack pretends to wipe sweat off his forehead. “Thank God.” He sits on the corner of the mattress and picks the box of chocolates off the tray. “Cami picked these out for you.” He smiles. “Well. I held her up in front of the shelves in the candy aisle, and they were the first ones she grabbed.”

“You have great taste, baby,” I tell her, tickling her belly. “Seriously, guys, what’s all this for? I don’t understand. Are we just having a Beth Appreciation day?”

They all share a look. Cyrus elbows Sebastian in the ribs, and he steps forward, sliding into the bed next to me.

“Hey,” he says quietly.

“Hey.” I push back the coppery hair flopping over his forehead. “Was this your idea?”

“Kind of.” He cuts a forkful of pancake and holds it up to my lips. I take the bite, humming happily as the chocolate chips melt over my tongue. He smiles. “There’s one more present. Cami, will you please do the honours?”

I look up to see Cami holding an A4 envelope, happily gnawing on one corner. Jack gently pulls it away from her mouth.

“Nooo, don’t eat it. Give it to mummy. Go on.”

“Don’t call me that,” I groan.

He just gives me a sparkly look. “Yes, it’s for your mum. Your mama. Hand it over, baby.”

With some coaxing, Cami hands the envelope over to me. I slip my finger under the flap and peel it up, shaking out a familiar-looking piece of paper.

“Cami’s birth certificate?” I ask, confused.

Cyrus looks like he’s about to explode. “Oh my God read it.

I frown, scanning down the page. It looks the same as always; it has Cami’s name, her date of birth, the hospital she was born in. Her father’s name: Sebastian Turner Bright.

Her mother’s name: Bethany Sarah Ellis.

Oh,” I whisper.

And then I start crying. Not sweet, cute crying. Full-on ugly sobbing. Cami looks up at me wide-eyed, then offers me her bunny.

“Thanks, baby,” I whisper, re-reading the birth certificate again and again and again. It’s right there, printed in black and white. Mother, name and surname: Bethany Sarah Ellis.

I can’t breathe. I’m shaking all over. The men are all laughing around me. I hear a pop as someone breaks open a bottle of champagne. Three pairs of arms wrap around me as I’m covered in kisses. “When did it come through?” I gasp, pulling Cami—my daughter—onto my lap.

“A couple of weeks ago,” Sebastian admits. “We wanted to save it for today.”

I slap his arm. “You mean I’ve been her mum for two weeks and you didn’t tell me?!”

Jack laughs. “Don’t you get it, Beth? You’ve been her mum for ages. Ever since you started treating her like your daughter.”

I look down at Cami. She’s wriggling on my lap, singing under her breath. When she meets my eyes, she smiles widely, and my heart melts.

Jack’s right. Cami’s been my daughter for one and a half years now. It might finally be legal and official; but I’ve been acting as her mum for a long, long time. I’ve been a mother without even realising it. A piece of paper doesn’t make a family. A thought occurs to me, as I cuddle my daughter close, dropping kisses into her hair.

I’m never going to have a piece of paper that says I’m married.

When we were having issues with the adoption papers, we all talked about me marrying Seb. It would’ve been a lot easier for me to get approved as his wife instead of his girlfriend. But I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t. Even if we were doing it for the good of the family, I hated the idea of being officially connected to only one of them. I was so scared Jack and Cyrus would feel left out.

I sniff, looking up at the men over Cami’s pigtails. “Will you guys marry me?”

They all freeze.

“What?” Seb asks, his voice hoarse. “What did you say?”

I swallow, gathering Cami closer like a comfort blanket. “I mean, obviously, we can’t legally get married, but we can still have a ceremony, and rings, and promises, right? I can still call you all my husbands?”

No one says anything.

I take a shaky breath. “I just—I love you all so much. So much. And I want you to be mine. I want us all to be a family. Forever.”

There’s a few more seconds of silence, and then I’m suddenly flattened against the bed as Cyrus bowls me over in a hug. Cami laughs uproariously, wriggling between us.

“Sammich!” She announces.

“You’re our ladybug sandwich,” I agree, as Cyrus starts peppering my neck and shoulders with kisses. “Oh my God, Cy, stop, you’re gonna squash me—”

“He’s been wanting to ask you forever,” Jack says, laughing. “But he was waiting for you to be ready.”

“You want to be my wife?” Cyrus breathes against my skin. “Really?”

“Yes!” I wriggle underneath him. “Get off me before I die. I need to call Benny and Tony. Benny’s going to freak out.”

My flighty, permanently unattached best friend finally tied the knot with his husband last year. Their wedding was amazing; Tony set up a whole mixology bar, and we got served a different drink with every one of the seven dinner courses. I haven’t gotten that drunk since I was a teenager. Poor Seb had to pour me into bed that night.

Cyrus frowns, pulling back. “This isn’t the engagement,” he warns, his face serious. “I don’t have the rings yet.”

I laugh. “I don’t need rings, baby.”

“Yes, you do,” he insists. “We’re going to do this properly.”

“We want to take you somewhere,” Jack adds. “Maybe we’ll go on holiday. Somewhere tropical.”

“Or Paris,” Seb says behind me. He bands his arms around my waist and gently pulls me upright, drawing me into his lap. “We have lots of ideas.”

“But you’ll say yes?” Cyrus checks.

“Yes,” I whisper. “Yes, yes, yes.”

He makes a punched-out noise and grabs my cheeks, pulling me into a kiss. Cami squeals indignantly, and he kisses her cheek too, nuzzling her tiny ear.

Jack grins, squeezing in next to me and taking my hand. “We love you,” he says softly.

“I love you, too,” I choke out. “All of you.”

He beams and curls a finger under my chin, kissing me gently. He tastes like chocolate chips and coffee, and I fall into him, my body melting into his. When we finally gasp apart, I look up at Sebastian, tears rolling down my face.

“Happy Mother’s day,” he says with a small smile, and I pull his lips down to mine.


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