Authors: Sarah Brocious
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Mythology & Folk Tales, #Romance, #Clean & Wholesome, #Contemporary, #Inspirational, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Fantasy, #Fairy Tales
Chapter 1 The Interview
My palms were sweating. I couldn’t help it. Something about this hall, that door…it made me nervous. The house itself was perfectly lovely. It was bright and welcoming. The servants were attentive. It was yes Miss and no Miss with them. The servant that had walked me to this door even offered an encouraging smile.
“Mr. Byrne will see you now.”
No it was not the house that made me nervous. It was what was behind this door that unnerved me. I had never been summoned to a home like this to do an interview. I’d actually never held a position like this. I had worked as a teacher for ten years now. Had only recently decided I may benefit at being a nanny. Being with children was a joy to me.
I would never have children of my own. I pushed aside that thought now, as I stood outside the ominous mahogany double doors. I hesitated, recalling my instructions when I had arrived.
“Do not stare.”
These words came from a kindly old man, introduced to me as the head butler. I’d blinked in surprise, but tried not to let it show on my face. I had failed.
“He’s very particular about his…ahem…appearance. You will talk to him with lowered eyes. You will keep your voice soft.”
“Is he…is he sick?” I’d held back the torrent of questions that my tongue was fighting to ask.
“No Miss. He is healthy as they come.”
“You are not to question my dear. It’s required. You will not be in his presence often, and will not have to deal with this oddity enough to make it uncomfortable. You are here for the children. No more.” The kind eyes of the elderly man had softened, but not taken away my fears. Stewart, as I learned his name to be, ushered a sweet faced girl to “take me up.”
And now I was up, and my hand trembled as I lifted it to knock.
“Come,” a not unpleasant baritone called from the other side.
I entered a darkened office. A low light in the corner was the only assistance my eyes received. My gaze scanned the shelves of books, the framed awards on the walls…the fine paintings. It was then that I remembered my command, and lowered my gaze quickly. “Mr. Byrne,” I said softly.
I could feel his stare on me for a moment, and I wanted desperately just one glance of him. It did not set well, not knowing the face of my employer.
He exhaled on a frustrated sigh.
“Come sit Miss Meadows,” he commanded. I heard the snap of his laptop being closed. This equaled a darker room with the soft blue glow gone.
His voice was soft, but uncompromising. This steeled my reserve to not take a peek. He did not seem like the type most disobeyed. I kept my hands from clenching with nerves, and moved to the seat setting directly in front of a most impressive desk.
Seated, I kept my gaze on my hands.
“You were highly recommended by a good friend of mine. He does not give compliments easily. How did you manage to get one?”
I wouldn’t say he sounded accusing, but quite….skeptical. I took a deep breath, and swallowed, but had no moisture in my mouth to accomplish the later. Instead I cleared my throat.
“Mr. Adams son was struggling in school. I offered to tutor him. I spent long hours getting him up to speed with his classmates. I assume that is what earned the compliment.”
“You like teaching?”
It was his turn to clear his throat. “You like children Miss Meadows?”
I smiled. “Very much sir.”
I heard him shuffle a bit in his chair. He was ruffling through a few papers, which I assumed were my resume and application. I peeked to be sure, not high enough to see his face…just enough to see the top of the desk. And there were his hands. He had long fingers, manicured nails, strong hands….severely scarred hands.
I held the breath that threated to become a gasp. They were not the scars of a burn, rather, scars from a knife, or glass, I couldn’t tell which.
I wondered if his face held more of those same scars. Was that why I couldn’t look at him? Why he sat in a darkened room, and conducted an interview at his home? And he obviously worked here too. I’d seen the filing cabinets, the stacks of folders on my initial perusal. This all felt so terribly tragic all at once.
I felt tears building behind my eye lids. Damn my soft heartedness! It was going to wreck me for this interview. I swallowed hard, noting he had paused too. Did he know I’d seen them?
“Nerissa Meadows,” he murmured. “What an odd name….beautiful, but odd.”
I blushed. “
Nerissa, you know…from the Merchant of Venice? I was born lucky,” I laughed nervously. ”My mother loves Shakespeare.” I wanted to smack myself in the head. What a stupid thing to say. Against my own will, my tongue, as it often did, chose to take on a life of its own. “I fared better than my brother though. He was named Alonso from…”
“The Tempest,” he finished for me. I swore I heard a soft chuckle.
Again my cheeks flamed. “You like Shakespeare too?”
“Very much Miss,” he said, mimicking my own answer.
I drew in a breath, feeling a little tension seep out of me.
“Why have you decided to become a nanny?”
“I love being with children,” I said with conviction.
“So continue to teach.”
“It’s not enough….anymore,” I finished lamely. “I feel like being a nanny will allow me to invest into a life in more ways than teaching.” I shrugged. “It’s not the same as children of your own, but rest assured I will put everything into caring for your little ones.” I drew in a deep breath.
“Please, call me Nerissa.”
“Miss Meadows,” he continued, as if he hadn’t heard me. “Becoming a nanny is giving of your time, your life. You do not have time for relationships…much of a social life. Not where my girls are concerned. I require full care of them. You will eat drink, sleep play only for them.”
I smiled. “I like that idea. I will treat them as if they were my own,” I whispered with sincerity. No truer words could I have spoken.
He chuckled softly. It was a warming sound. I couldn’t help the flip my stomach gave.
“You are willing to dedicate yourself to them? You are a beautiful woman. Do you not have someone willing to give you children of your own?”
I felt shock at the boldness of his question. My cheeks were on fire now, and I shook my head.
“I do not believe you,” he spoke gruffly.
“It’s true.” My voice trembled, and again with the tears? My eyes stung, but I refused to let them fall.
“For now, it’s true” he growled.
“Forever,” I growled back. “It’s true forever.” I realized I had just broken another rule by raising my voice.
He was quiet.
I wondered if I’d just failed…ruined my chance because of my reaction.
“Why forever?” His voice dipped deep, and almost sounded sad.
I closed my eyes. What did I have to lose revealing to him why? I steadied myself. I lifted my face fractionally. “I can’t have children of my own Mr. Byrne.” I bit my lip against the trembling, not willing to break down in front of him.
I heard his indrawn breath. “Why?”
I wanted to stand up and leave. I wanted to act indignant at his question. I wanted to tell him to mind his own business. I wanted to hide my face, especially when I felt a tear roll down my cheek. Most of all, I wanted to answer his question because something in his voice held true concern, and this touched me.
“You don’t have to say,” the same sad timber of his voice affected me.
I could leave it at that. Let him give me an out. But I had no reason to be ashamed at my why. I should be proud. “I’m a cancer survivor.” I wanted to kick myself for the tremble in my voice. “I only survived because I had a surgery to remove it. To remove it all…they had to remove all that is necessary for me to be …” I growled in frustration. I had not been prepared to make myself vulnerable in this interview. Never imagined this would come up ever! And never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that I’d be sitting in a dark room with a mysterious man, revealing something so few knew about me.
I nearly jumped when a scarred hand appear below my face, holding a handkerchief that had the initials L.B. in the corner. Liam Byrne. That’s what Mr. Adams had said his name was. Well, the little gesture Liam Byrne had just done prompted more tears. I felt an awkward, gentle squeeze on my shoulder.
“I’m sorry,” he said softly.
I could sense by the sound of his voice that he was near, but not in front of me. Behind me, on the off chance that in my emotional state I would forget myself and look up. The desire to look over my shoulder was strong. I probably had wrecked the chance of getting the job anyway. But his kindness made me stay where I was, head down…saving him his pride.
“Should I go?” I whispered.
He moved passed me again, returning to his seat. “Why would you want to do that? The interview is not over.”
“I thought because I…well….I’m sitting here soaking your handkerchief. Surely you don’t think I’m fit…I must seem so…..”
“The tears are my fault.” He cleared his throat. “I never know the right questions when it comes to females,” he chuckled.
That chuckle induced a butterfly reaction. I swallowed hard. I was doing that a lot these last fifteen minutes. I suffered a smile. “It’s okay. That was just not an easy thing to tell you. I…I’m not use to making myself so vulnerable.” My voice was steadier now.
“Why did you then?”
I laughed, and took a glance at the nervously drumming, scarred fingers. I figured he’d broken that seal when he gave me the handkerchief. It was safe to look at the hands. “You didn’t believe me.”
The drumming stopped, and he pulled his hands from my view. “I believe you now.”
I nodded. “And you still want to continue the interview after my little show?”
“I do very much so.”
“Let’s start over,” his deep voice washed over me.
I heard him shift in his seat. Than that strong hand reached across the desk. “Miss Meadows, it’s very nice to meet you. My name is Liam Byrne.”
I took the hand firmly to shake. I felt the scars. Not only were they along the tops of his hands, but defensive marks marred his palms. He had made himself vulnerable with this act. Was he making up for causing me to have to be vulnerable? I liked to think so. I squeezed his hand, and felt warmth grow up my arm. I drew in a startled breath.
He pulled back, assuming, I was sure, that my reaction had been to the marks. “Let’s continue,” he said, softly clearing his throat.
“You have been teaching ten years. You are thirty-two, unattached, and you come with a reference from a trusted friend. I say you fit the position.” He laid aside the papers that he had started nervously rifling through.
Shortest interview ever.
I wanted to laugh. But Liam Byrne seemed like a no nonsense guy.
“There is just one more test.”
I nodded. “That is?”
“Meeting the children….my girls.”
I smiled. “A test I’d be happy to pass.”
He drew in an audible breath. “Before I do bring them in I would like to go over a few other things with you. Provided you adhere to these requirements, and obviously pass the Brianne and Amelia test, the job is yours.”
I nodded. “And those requirements are?”
“Well, obviously, in my case…you interact as you are now, lowered head. “
I bit my tongue against the why, and simply gave a nod.
“The girls do not leave this estate. There are many things to do here to entertain them. They school here…they stay here.”
“Never leave the estate?” I felt a bit flustered at this bit of news.
”They are safe here,” he growled.
I gave a simple nod. I would fight that battle later down the road I was sure.
“You will have rooms here. I keep those in my employ comfortable.”
“Servants quarters then?”
He grunted. “No, you will stay in the family wing. Your rooms will be attached the girls rooms. You are their nanny. You will be near to them at all times. I will keep in touch with you through this.” He handed me a cell phone. “You may call in emergencies, otherwise we will text.”
I took the phone and again, nodded.
“This will work out just fine Miss Meadows, as long as you keep my girls safe.”
“Will I be teaching them?”
“Amelia is only three…Brianne six. She already has her tutor. You will solely be their motherly influence. “
My heart skipped, liking the sound of that.