I won’t keep you waiting, so here you go!
Pride Be Damned
Quinn was sitting in the booth behind the couple. She hadn’t been eavesdropping, not really. Only it was hard not to hear what they were saying with the restaurant quiet in the back corner.
There was the normal lull in the breakfast crowd, so she took the time to sit and roll silverware into napkins.
Should she say something to him? She wanted to. She wanted to know about this job opening she’d just heard him talking about. By the sound of it, it seemed full time. Not to mention a place to live…even better.
From experience, she knew nothing ever fell into her lap. Hard work and speaking up had always gotten her where she needed to be. Not that she’d gotten far in life, but far enough.
Enough to survive and that’s all she’d ever been concerned with.
What the hell, the worst he could say was no. She cleared her throat hoping to get his attention, but he didn’t lift his head, just continued to eat his breakfast.
So she cleared her throat again, this time a bit louder. He glanced up at her briefly, then back down. At least she got a closer look at him. He didn’t seem old enough to have kids that age. Then again, she wasn’t a good judge of a man’s age.
All she could tell was he was clean-shaven, even on a Saturday morning. His shirt looked nice and expensive. More than she’d ever pay, she was sure. More than she could afford, by the look of the logo on the front pocket.
Obviously he had money since he was looking for a nanny. She wondered what he did. Well, only one way to find out.
She stood up and moved a few feet in front of him, then waited until he looked up at her again. His eyes looked troubled, but she pushed on. “I’m sorry to interrupt you. I couldn’t help but overhear your conversation.”
He titled his head slightly, his full lips forming a grimace that didn’t detract from his handsomeness at all, now that she was seeing him up close. He had thicker brows, strong cheekbones, and a square chin.
“No problem. It’s not a good morning, as I’m sure you heard.”
“You’re looking for a nanny?” she asked, wanting to get clarification.
“I guess. Though Jennifer is probably right. I really need more of a housekeeper and cook who is willing to keep an eye on the kids and cart them around. I’m not always available. Do you know someone?”
“Me,” she said before she lost her nerve. He looked skeptical, but she pushed on, “Do you mind if I sit for a minute and ask a few questions?”
He gestured to the booth across from him. “Don’t you have work to do, Quinn?” he asked, eying her nametag.
“It’s a little slow. Max, right?” Quinn said, and hoped he wasn’t offended that she called him by the name she’d heard. She took it as a good sign he wasn’t telling her to get lost.
“Yes, Max Hamilton. Quinn…?”
“Baker,” she said, holding her hand out for his. “I’m sorry to be so forward, but like I said, I heard your conversation.”
“So tell me why you think you can do this job?”
“I’m a line cook at another restaurant. I’m confident that I can fulfill that part of the job description, and I’ll gladly give you references.”
“I expect them. These are my children, after all. What else?” he asked.
“I raised my younger brothers and sister for years. I started doing it when I was around twelve.”
“Twelve?” he asked, not looking convinced.
She opted for honesty. “My mother wasn’t around much and there was no other adult in the picture. It was me or no one.”
“What were their ages?” He seemed more curious than skeptical.
“Seven, six, and two at the time.”
She didn’t often tell people that information. Not many were privy to her background and she’d prefer to keep it that way, but she wouldn’t lie either.
He winced, and something like sympathy crossed his face, but he didn’t ask anything else along those lines.
“What about cleaning?”
“I’m a neat person. I have to be to be a cook. Well, I’ll amend that, not all cooks are neat, but I am. There are codes to follow and health regulations. All my references will also gladly attest to my cleanliness at work. I do whatever needs to be done. If they need me to clean the kitchen top to bottom, I will. If they need someone to scrub toilets, I’ll do that too.”
She wasn’t afraid of hard work. If it got her some extra hours and a little bit more money to put away, her pride could handle it.
Besides, her pride had suffered plenty in her life. At this point, there was nothing wrong with an honest day’s work.
“I need someone to live at the house. Not just come in the mornings and leave at night. I could be called out in the middle of the night and I won’t have time to wait for someone to show up.”
“What do you do?” It seemed the right time to ask.
“I’m a plastic surgeon.”
She wanted to ask how many emergency facelifts were done in the middle of the night, but didn’t. Plastic surgery was as foreign to her as living on Mars. It didn’t even warrant a minute of time in her life.
“It’s not a problem to live there.”
Actually it was perfect, but she didn’t want to sound desperate. Her lease was up at the end of this month and she didn’t want to renew it, but didn’t have enough money put aside to find a better place either.
“Do you have a clean driver’s license?”
“Yes,” she said.
“Good. I have an extra car at the house. The kids need to be transported around, so I provide the transportation.”
“Okay.” She didn’t know what else to say at that point. This didn’t seem to be happening. She had to be dreaming. It was almost too good to be true. A place to live and a car. She wouldn’t have to worry about her next auto bill either. Or the new tires that she needed before the first snowfall.
“You would have to meet my kids first. They have to decide if they like you and want you. I won’t make any decision without their input. Or Jennifer’s, either. I value her opinion too much.”
“I’d expect no less than that from a parent.” Not that she’d ever seen much of that side of parenting.
Oh my God, this actually sounded like it might work out. She was waiting for the other shoe to drop.
“You’d need to clear a background check. The same check that all my employees have to clear for my practice.”
And there the heavy metal-studded shoe clanged loudly onto the floor. She’d have to admit her record might have marks on it. She wasn’t sure, she’d been a juvenile and wasn’t positive how it all worked. She would have needed money to consult with a lawyer to find out. Extra money and Quinn were like the symphony and skateboarding. They just didn’t coexist.
“I should be honest with you. I don’t know what my record will say.”
He lifted his eyebrow at her, then he crossed his arms. “That’s not negotiable. Even more so since you just admitted that.”
“I know. I get that. I completely do. I’ll be honest with you. I told you I was taking care of my siblings at age twelve. I ended up in foster care. We all did and I did some things I’m not proud of. Things I had to do to survive, but I don’t know if they will show up on my record.”
“What kind of things?” he asked, and this wasn’t looking good for her right now. But she’d come this far. Again, pride be damned.
“There wasn’t always enough funds for food or other items. At times I had to steal what was needed, and I was caught.”
She felt her face heat up. She was still embarrassed to this day.
That stupid day she was stressed because the baby wasn’t feeling good and the boys were starving. She wasn’t on her game and still blamed herself for being so sloppy.
“Explain the other items. Like drugs?” he asked.
He was sitting across from her calmly asking the question, but that didn’t change the way he was making her feel. She hadn’t noticed until this moment how much bigger he was than her. After all, he’d been sitting down, and she hadn’t paid attention to him when he first walked in.
But now she noticed how wide his shoulders were, and how large his hands were. It didn’t matter he seemed on the slim side, there was still an aura of strength and authority behind him.
“No,” she rushed to say. She cleared her throat and wanted to put her head down, but maintained eye contact and said as directly as she could. “Personal hygiene products. Soap, toothpaste…other things that public assistance won’t cover.”
She wasn’t sure she could get any more mortified than she was. It was bad enough telling a complete stranger about her horrific childhood and her criminal record. Telling him the things she stole, well, that kind of made it worse. Thankfully, he seemed to understand.
“Okay. Well, I appreciate you being honest with me. I’ll think about it and let you know. Obviously I just found out about my situation, so I’m sure I’ll have other applicants.”
She saw the hammer coming down to nail the coffin shut. She couldn’t let that happen.
“Just give me a chance. A trial run. Three months,” she said quickly. “The first month can be with Jennifer while she watches over and trains me. Then one month on my own. The third month is because if it doesn’t work out, I might have a hard time finding another place to live. I’ll need time.”
He hesitated and she could almost see him flipping the hammer over and pulling a nail out. Almost…
“I won’t let you down,” she continued. “I’ll take whatever background check you need. Fingerprinting, peeing in a cup, blood work. You name it. I’m being honest with you. I really don’t know what will show up. All I ever did was steal what we needed to survive and that was over a decade ago. I ended up in juvy for a short period of time, but I kept my nose clean. I really did.”
“I’ll tell you what. Give me your number and I’ll talk to Jennifer tonight.”
She pulled her pad out and wrote down her name and number, then continued on writing.
“I’m going to put down three references and their phone numbers for you, too. All restaurants in Lake Placid. Please feel free to call them. Two of them I’m working at right now. The third was just a short period of time for some extra cash, but I had trouble balancing all three jobs. I guarantee you will get nothing but glowing references, and I can get you more if you want.”
He reached across for the piece of paper she slid in front of him. Then she decided not to overstay her welcome. “Thank you. All I ask for is a chance. I’ll let you finish your breakfast in peace.”
She walked away and held her breath, praying to a God that had never listened to her before.
You can buy the book on Amazon right now!