Okay, okay, I know I said it would be about a week for the next installment to arrive, but there was Jonah’s cold, then my cold, then Christmas, then another cold, then a chapter due for a workshop, and blah blah blah…
When last we left I was “a single parent with an infant son, and now, a troubled teenage daughter.” Here we go.
The Nanny Trilogy, Part II
The police traced Marcella’s father’s phone and found him in a motel room just outside of town. He had knocked back a bunch of booze and swallowed a handful of pills—enough to black him out and scare the crap out of everyone, but not enough to kill him. They took him to the local ER, pumped his stomach, and admitted him for a psychiatric evaluation. This was the last Marcella heard before her step-mother cut her off from any further contact with him, and her step-sister, which was both a blessing and a curse. Out-of-sight-out-of-mind has its benefits—no daily arguments or accusations to send her spinning off into the realm of self-doubt—but I could see all that unknown gnawing away at Marcella’s soul. When not on duty, she moped around the house in her pajamas, retreated to her room, and slept all hours of the day and night.
I tried to be a cheerleader. With her permission, I enrolled her in a mindfulness meditation class at the local community college, which really did seem to make a difference. For a little while. She started going out on weekends again, taking walks, making lunch dates with a new girlfriend she had met at a hair salon.
Then came the hickey.
In and of itself, it was innocuous—more teenage ridiculousness—but the timing rendered it a loaded gun. When I left for work the night before, no hickey. When I returned the next morning, there it was. I knew there was a guy, Luke, her “Mister Saturday Night,” but no one I had met, no one I was willing to welcome into my home when I wasn’t at home, while Marcella was supposed to be working.
This time, I blew my top.
”How. Dare. You. How dare you? I whisper-shrieked from across the kitchen, moments after walking in the door. Jonah was still asleep.
”On my god, what?” She stood stunned in her skimpy pjs and last night’s cat eyes. “What are you even talking about?”
”That thing on your neck.”
”The hickey. Below your ear. It sure as hell wasn’t there when I left for work yesterday.”
Her mouth was agape. She ran her hand up and down her neck, feeling for the wound. “I’m sorry! I-I-I-t was Luke,” she stuttered. “He drove over last night. I told him not to, but he did anyway.”
”What was our agreement about overnight guests?”
”I know. I know. Not unless you meet them and approve first. I swear I told him not to come. He just showed up. He thought he was being romantic or something. He was drinking.”
”Are you kidding me?” I threw up my hands.
”BEFORE he got here, not here.”
As if that made it any better.
”I couldn’t let him drive back to the city.”
”So not only was there a stranger in my house with my child last night, there was a drunk stranger!” Gah!
”Oh come on, you really would have wanted him to drive back to the city drunk?”
”No! I really wouldn’t have wanted him here in the first place!”
”Well, what was I supposed to do? Throw him out?”
”You should have called me. That’s what honest people do. They own their shit! How about ‘Dana, Luke showed up here drunk. I know he’s not supposed to be here, but I also don’t want to let him drive. What do you want me to do?’ That’s being a responsible adult—not a sneaky teenager!”
”I’m sorry! I screwed up, alright?” It’s not like it ever happened before. It’s not like it’ll happen again.”
”You’re right it won’t happen again. You’re fired.”
”I—wait. You’re firing me?”
”Yes! You lied to me. How am I supposed to trust you ever again?”
”Oh my god, I didn’t lie! I just—hadn’t told you yet.”
”Oh, so you were going to tell me?”
”I’m done talking about this right now. I need to sleep, otherwise I’m just gonna keep yelling. We’ll talk about this when I wake up.”
Normally, I would pull Jonah into bed with me to nurse him before I went to sleep, but I was afraid of somehow poisoning him with angry milk. Instead, I went upstairs to fester and pump, which just pissed me off all the more.
The thing that I hated most about the whole scenario was that I had lost my temper.
I am a woman with trust issues. After years of dating men who, for various reasons, had difficulty telling me the truth—“I’m sorry I didn’t call. I was in a study group,” when the fact was he’d been in bed with his underage study buddy—or, “I’m at work right now so I can’t talk, but I’ll see you later,” which happened to be ten minutes later, when I ran into him with his ex-girlfriend on the hiking trail behind my house—I knew in my guts when I was being played. I stayed in those relationships for far too long, against my better judgment, every single time. Somehow they convinced me, I convinced myself, that everything was fine despite the fact that nothing about it ever felt fine. I wasn’t going to let it happen again. Not where my child’s safety was involved. There was no way I was going to tolerate a lying teenager caring for my son.
Marcella was out.
”I didn’t lie to you. You walked in the door, saw the hickey, and just started yelling at me. You didn’t even give me a chance to tell you what happened.”
Sigh. She was right. It didn’t mean I trusted her. At all. But she was right—I never gave her a chance to say a word. “I don’t think you were planning on telling me.”
”You can think what you want, but I was. I swear I was. I was so nervous about it I was sick to my stomach, but I was gonna tell you. I get that I should have called you last night and not told you about it after the fact, but I never even thought about calling you—I was just…trying to deal with him.”
I didn’t believe her. In fact, I wouldn’t have put it past her to have schemed the rendezvous all along. “Where was Jonah while all this was happening?”
”Sleeping. Luke didn’t even get here until like, midnight.”
”And when did he leave?”
She blushed, “Just before you got home.”
”More like, I don’t need the drama.”
Is she for real? “Do you get that by not telling me, you got even more?”
”I swear, I moved out here to get away from all the drama in my life. Instead it feels like I found even more.”
”Found it, or created it?” The look she shot me said fuck off, but she didn’t dare say it. “Seriously. If you had told me the truth last night, I wouldn’t have been happy about it, but I wouldn’t have blown up at you the way I did this morning. I would have come home right away. I would have been angry about having to leave work in the middle of my shift to deal with your crap. Again! You probably both would have gotten a lecture, but I’m not cruel. I know you can’t control the behavior of other people. I would have been pissed, but I wouldn’t be firing you right now.”
She was quiet. Uncharacteristically quiet. She just sat and stared at the floor. “So you’re really firing me?”
I nodded, but she couldn’t look at me to see it.
”I can’t go back there.”
I wanted her gone.
”If you let me stay, I promise it’ll never happen again.”
”Marcella, I’m sorry—“
”Please let me stay. I can’t go back there. Not now.” Tears slid down her face.
I still can’t tell you why, but I caved.