“That no good, cheating, a…whoa, Bridget, you’re talking to yourself. And now you’re talking to yourself about talking to yourself.”
Great, I thought. I had become slightly mad in the last couple of days. I guess having your fiancé break off your engagement in a note taped to your apartment door will do that for you. Did I mention the said door was attached to an apartment that was only mine for a couple more days since I had not renewed my lease? Why didn’t I renew my lease? Because of that no good, cheating, asshole – there, I said it. Well, my fiancé, er, ex-fiancé convinced me it was silly to spend another day apart.
Top that off with the fact that I didn’t currently have a job because I literally just finished school. I did have a job lined up in the fall, but I was supposed to take the summer off before I started the “real world,” as “Jack the Jerk” persuaded me. My best friend Lily now referred to him just like that.
“You should relax, babe,” he had said. “Spend the summer making my place our place and planning our wedding. I can’t wait to make you my wife.”
Apparently, he could wait. He could wait forever once Monica whatever-her-last-name- was spilled some coffee on him. And it was love at first sight, Jack the Jerk had written. He didn’t even have the decency to break up with me in person. We had been together for three years. Three stinking years and he broke up with me on a note.
I thought I knew what love was with you, Bridget. But I was wrong. That’s how he started the letter. Seriously? I mean, seriously? That’s how you’re going to break off an engagement? He then proceeded to give me the details that led to this. Like I really cared what Monica the home wrecker was wearing?
And what’s worse, you know how he ended the damn note? Please give the ring to my parents at your earliest convenience. Like it was some business transaction. Hey buddy, in case you didn’t know, etiquette says that if you break up with me, I get to keep the ring.
I didn’t even want Jack when he pursued me. I was focused on school and he looked like bad news. He was handsome, I’ll give him that. He was charming, had a smile that could make a crying baby stop, and he knew it. That was the problem. I wasn’t interested in a guy that knew he had the exterior package down to a tee. In my limited experience, they were trouble.
Jack didn’t care, though. He had wanted me, and did everything to break down my defenses; show me he wasn’t just great to look at, but also had something inside to offer. He was my friend until he wasn’t. I thought things were perfect. And here we were. I was packing, like
I should have been, except this time, it was for a different reason.
“Get away for the summer. Enjoy your freedom while you still can,” Lily told me, especially since I didn’t have a place of my own. Lily had not only been my best friend, but my roommate as well. When I chose to move in with Jack, she hadn’t been upset. She’d been happy for me, completely understanding. She was moving back home for a bit until she could stand on her own two feet. I figured I’d do the same.
“And have your mom hover over you asking if you’re alright every five minutes?” “Where else am I supposed to go?” I whined.
“On an adventure,” she smiled wide and twirled around the room with her hands up like she was a child.
“With what money? I can’t ask my parents for that.” Not that they wouldn’t give it to me, but they had used a big chunk of their savings to help put me through college. I couldn’t ask them for anymore. Especially not for something like this.
“So get a summer job.”
“Like that’s so easy?” I mocked.
“Actually…” she trailed off and nibbled on her fingernail. It was her telltale sign. It was a sure thing that she had done something I wouldn’t like.
“Oh no. Oh no,” I repeated. “What did you do?” I should have known.
“You remember last year when Margaret worked as a nanny?” Margaret had been one of
Lily’s friends from class.
“Uh huh,” I responded.
“Well, I might have maybe called the agency she worked through. And I might have pretended to be you. It maybe went pretty well and you sort of have a job starting on Monday in Newport Beach, California.”
“What the hell?” I screamed. I didn’t curse often, and I rarely screamed. You’d think
Lily would have been shocked, but she just clapped.
“There you go, Bridge. That’s what I’m talking about.” “What the hell are you talking about?” I asked.
“Apparently, some family needed someone last minute, and you needed something to do last minute. It all worked out well.”
“You can’t just pretend to be me and rearrange my life!” I yelled. “Well, Bridge, I just did.”
“Well undo it,” I whined.
“It’s on the beach. You’re going to be taking care of a little boy. You love kids. You sure as hell better love kids.” I got my degree in education and I was going to assist a teacher starting in the fall. I wanted to teach right away, but I guess I had to start somewhere. “It will be good practice,” she continued. “And you get to be away from here and Jack the Jerk, relax on
the beach and earn money doing it.”
“You’re no longer my friend,” I stated.
“Well you’re my best friend.” And then she spent the next two hours convincing me that this was the best idea ever.
That had been Thursday. It was Saturday and I was packing up the last of the things I’d need for a summer on the beach. I couldn’t believe I agreed to this. Yep, I was definitely going slightly mad. And it had all been that no-good cheating asshole’s fault.
I put the last item I thought I’d need in my suitcase and I looked around the empty room before I headed out to spend the night at my parents.
“Well, goodbye old friend,” I spoke to the room. “Hope we don’t meet again. And I
hope Lily’s right about this summer,” I mumbled. “This better be exactly what I need.”
Newport Beach. Even the name of the city sounded so rich. So it was no wonder that when I stepped off the plane, grabbed a cab and headed to Newport Beach, California, I felt like I was in some ritzy place.
And yet here I was, driving past houses that looked like mansions, women that looked like models, and men that looked like my every fantasy. Was there something in the water? Because if so, I was about to drink it all day, every day, bathe in it, heck, I’d sleep in it.
Maybe Lily’s scheme hadn’t been all bad.
I especially thought so when I pulled up to a private home right on the water. It wasn’t as big as I anticipated, but it was by no means small. With a pastel yellow exterior and white trim,
it looked like a painting, something that would be called, “Picturesque Beach Home,” I
As I stepped out of the cab, I was suddenly very nervous. Lily had the best intentions when she set this all up, but she was also absentminded and didn’t really care about the details. All I knew was that I was going to be a nanny for the summer for a little boy that was maybe six, maybe four, she couldn’t remember exactly. I had the boy’s name, Jacob Bennett, and I knew they needed a nanny because although this was a vacation for the boy, work didn’t stop during the summer.
If it wouldn’t have been for the purse in one arm, carryon in the other and my luggage trailing behind me, I would have been biting my nails down to nubs.
Would the little boy like me? Would he be a spoiled brat? Would his mom look down on me for not coming from money? Or would she pity me? Would the dad be one of those sleazy ones you read about that would hit on me?
God, I was such a mess.
And then I finally had the courage to ring the doorbell and after about a minute wait, the most adorable little boy opened the door. He was definitely closer to six than four and his light brown hair had a touch of curls, with one stray one falling over his forehead. His eyes were a cross between green and gold and he crinkled his nose as he looked me over.
“Hi,” he said and I looked around him to see where his family was. “Who are you?” he asked when I didn’t say anything.
“Oh, I’m sorry, you must be Jacob. I’m Bridget. I’m going to be your nanny for the summer.”
I wondered what this conversation looked like to an outsider. Did I look like a mess talking to a well put together little boy?
“Uh huh,” he responded and didn’t move. He did narrow his eyes like he was trying to figure me out. I couldn’t believe I felt vulnerable under the scrutiny of a boy that hadn’t even reached double digits yet.
“Are your parents around?” “My dad is in the shower.”
“Oh okay, well, can I come in?” “Do you like Skylanders?”
“I, uh, what?”
“Do you play video games? Do you have any on your phone? Can I see your phone? My dad won’t get me one until I’m ten.”
I think he would have kept going if I hadn’t cut him off. “Oh, oh. Uh, how about I get inside and get settled in, talk to your parents and then we can play whatever you want.” I wasn’t sure how I felt about being by the beach and sitting inside playing games. But I was sure we’d figure those details out.
him. He opened the door and led me inside. “You’re prettier than Mrs. Marcos. She was old and mean and smelled bad. You smell like cookies.”
Yeah, definitely liked this kid.
I was only about three steps into the home when I heard a deep voice, the kind that made your body vibrate and tingle, imagining what kind of face went with that voice. Except the words were not what I expected.
“Who the hell are you?” I heard from my right and the tone was anything but friendly. I turned and swooned a little inside. The man had to be around six feet, hair the same
color as Jacob’s, but it had more of a wave than a curl, and it was damp and styled back. He had on a white t-shirt that went well with the light tan he was sporting and did little to hide the chiseled body underneath. His eyes were more golden than Jacob’s, but they were the same shape. His nose was a bit crooked, like he had gotten into a fight. I don’t know what it was about small imperfections like that, but it drove girls wild, like it made the guy more endearing somehow. And his high cheekbones were currently on full display as he gritted his teeth, obviously waiting for an answer.
“Hi, you must be Mr. Bennett. I’m Bridgett,” I said as I put my purse down and stepped forward to shake his hand.
He just looked at my hand like I was a leper, sneered a bit, and then turned to Jacob. “What did I say about opening the door?”
“Sorry daddy,” Jacob said in a small voice. I wanted to stand up for him, but at the same time, I could admire his dad being upset about him opening the door for a stranger, which I guess I was to some extent. Wait, he was the dad. Not good. I was lusting after my employer, whom I’d probably have to see every day. And where the hell was his wife? Maybe if she popped her head in, I’d see she was some gorgeous blonde bombshell and that would immediately tamper
the desire pooling inside.
“And again,” he said as he turned back to me. “I asked you who the hell you were.” I’m pretty sure I visibly shrank back while squeaking out my answer. “I’m Bridgett.”
His stare said that had no affect on him. “Bridget Greene, the nanny?” It was meant to be a statement, but this guy was making me question even myself.
“No,” he roared. Yeah, he actually roared. I didn’t know that was possible. “There’s been a mistake.” He didn’t say it in that “oh, I’m sorry” kind of way, but in that “you have got to be kidding me” style. And suddenly, I was no longer intimidated by him. Okay, I still was a
little, but I was more pissed than anything. What the hell did he mean there was a mistake. I mean sure, I didn’t come from money like he obviously had, but what kind of nanny would? And I was put together, educated, and I spoke well.
“I assure you Mr. Bennett, I’m here from the agency,” I said as I heard the indignation in my own voice.
“No, you’re not. The nanny I hired is fifty-two.” “Well, as you can see, I’m not. I’m twenty-five.” “Twenty-five?” he scoffed.
“Maybe someone made a mistake,” I offered. “Wrote the numbers backward.”
“I hired a seasoned nanny,” he responded. “Someone that knows what they are doing.” “I assure you I know how to handle children,” I told him, my tone coming out harsh.
He slammed his hand down on the counter nearby and I jumped a little. I looked over at
Jacob, who seemed to be watching us as if we were some live action drama. I would have at
that could take care of my child not another child for me to worry about,” he said.
“And you’re what? Thirty? Thirty-two tops? Makes you a wise old man, huh?” I yelled. I probably wasn’t making the best impression, but I didn’t care. I was two seconds away from turning around and saying to hell with this job.
“I am a business man and a father, and I’ve lived through most at my age. I am a wise old man,” he threw back. “I don’t need a friend or a buddy for my child, I need someone to watch him, to take him places. You couldn’t possibly take care of kid. Are you even out of school?”
“You know what?” I asked, but didn’t wait for an answer. “Aside from the fact that this is a highly inappropriate conversation to be having in front of your child, whom you imply you care about, I am not some simple minded teenager that you seem to think I am. I have a Master’s degree, and I have worked since I was in high school. I’ve babysat several children and I know exactly what I’m doing.”
“Babysitting some snotty teenagers?” he chuckled mirthlessly. “I don’t want someone to watch Jacob for a few hours and then pass him off. I have work to do this summer, I need someone I can trust to care for his wellbeing.”
“Where is Mrs. Bennett? Maybe she has some insight into this matter before you continue to condemn me.” I was honestly torn between just stomping out and saying “to hell with this” and staying. I just didn’t want to feel like I failed at something else, especially before
I even started. I’d have to tuck my tail between my legs and go home and mope around. I hoped appealing to the woman of the house might help me. Women stuck together, right? And they were more sensitive and understood that even young girls had some innate motherly instinct.
“She’s dead,” he responded with such finality that my mouth actually dropped open a bit. Then he lowered his head and I swear I could physically feel his pain. I looked over at Jacob, who seemed to feel dejected as well. I dropped the rest of my things and went over to hug him, feeling like a royal ass.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t…I didn’t know,” I said as I held Jacob to me, his little arms wrapped around my legs.
His dad looked back up at me and I saw the anger and the sorrow written in his eyes and I
felt even worse. “I’m sorry,” I whispered again. “I’ll be leaving now,” I said as I let Jacob go. “No,” Jacob said. “Daddy, I like her.”
I froze, and so did Mr. Bennett, whose first name I still didn’t know. We stayed in an uncomfortable silence for a minute or so until he finally opened his mouth. “You can stay.” It was partially said with defeat and partially said as if he was doing me a favor. I bit my tongue to keep from saying, “Gee thanks,” sarcastically. So I just nodded and he turned around as I grabbed the rest of my things.
“Steven,” I heard from behind me. I turned to face him. “What?”
“My name is Steven. Jacob will show you to your room, after you’re settled in, come to my office. We’ll go over everything you need to know for this summer.”
“Okay,” I responded and followed Jacob into my room.
Great. My boss was a hot single asshole. A hot single asshole with a broken heart. I was pretty screwed.
Four years. It had been four long, painful years since Allison’s death. Jacob was only two. She didn’t get to watch him grow up into a feisty little boy. She’d never get to see him develop into a strong young man or an adult with my personality, not that that was necessarily a good thing.
I had been even tempered before. That was one of Allison’s favorite qualities about me. We met in law school where so many of the students are power crazed, overwhelmed and pretty damn cocky. I managed to somehow have a laid back attitude and Allison was drawn to it, impressed by it, you could say.
I was simply impressed by her. From the minute I laid eyes on her, I wanted her, would do anything to have her, even when it meant I had to be her friend first. I hated that word, well, I hated it when it came to her. It was only a matter of time before the friend line blurred and after that, I was hooked.
I got her hitched to me before we even finished law school, making sure no asshole could snatch her up. “You’re marrying me,” I told her. “You’re marrying me this summer and I’m not taking no for answer,” I said as I stood on one knee looking at her teary eyes.
“Well then you’re lucky my answer is yes,” she cried as she fell into my waiting arms. We wanted to wait to start a family until both of our careers were on solid ground, but it
wasn’t long after we finished law school that a night of partying led to Jacob nine months later. We wouldn’t have traded him for the world.
Allison took some time off while I worked day and night to make it at my firm. Things were going great…until they weren’t. Until a routine check-up turned into Stage Three Lymphoma. We went through all the various routes – chemo, radiation, surgery. They didn’t help. Just over a year later, she was gone. And when she left, she took my heart with her.
I tried to be the best father I could be with Jacob, but for a while, I was lost in my own despair, and then I was lost in my work, needing the distraction. And slowly, that became the normal life for us. And with that change and loss, went my carefree attitude too. And in its place, the asshole I never wanted to become emerged. I was short tempered, easy to upset, and I snapped at the people that loved me the most and stood by me when I needed them.
If it wasn’t for my parents and for Allison’s parents stepping in and not only forcing me to live each day, however painful, but also taking care of Jacob, especially with my crazy schedule, I don’t know what I would have done.
But it was also their meddling that got me into this summer mess in the first place. “You need to get away for a bit,” Allison’s mom told me.
“Too many bad memories here,” my mom agreed.
“Look at your room. It’s a shrine to my daughter. I miss her too,” her mom said. “But you have a little boy in the other room that needs a real father, not just a man that resides in the same house.”
“You have to live again, Steven,” my mom harped in.
They went on and on about this until finally, they just went ahead and booked a beach house for us for the summer and told me to take it easy.
I fought them tooth and nail. And you’d think with some of the cases I take on, I could handle them easily, but I couldn’t. I never really could with them.
But I couldn’t take it easy even if I wanted to. Not only did I not know what that meant anymore, but I had also just taken on a case that was going to take up most of my time. I got the number from a coworker of the nanny service he used and called them.
When they described the woman and her experience, she seemed reasonable. The most important thing was that she was supposed to be fifty-two. Normally, people wouldn’t care too much about that, but I did. I wanted someone with experience, someone that could step in and be a grandmother type figure when I was busy. I wanted an older woman that wouldn’t cause any distractions.
Bridget Greene was definitely a distraction.
I called the agency right after I walked out of the room, asking what happened. “I’m sorry, sir,” the lady answered. “Whoever read the information to you must have been mistaken or switched the numbers around on accident. Bridget Greene is twenty-five not fifty-two.”
I looked up at the ceiling and cursed God for yet another fuck-up in my life.
I hadn’t looked at a woman since I had met Allison because I never wanted anyone else. After her death, I swore off women completely. I wasn’t going to defile her memory with cheap fucks and there was no way I was ever meeting anyone to replace her. She was my one and only and I lost her. No one else would compare.
The minute I saw Bridget, I knew I was in trouble. It wasn’t her looks, although even a man like me could see she was stunning. It was that sweet, vulnerable aura she gave off. In my world, women were vultures. She wasn’t. Her obvious innocence reminded me of Allison and the minute I thought about that, or the fact that I had compared this woman to her had me feeling equally pissed at myself and Bridget. And just like always, I lashed out at her.
She probably didn’t deserve my wrath, but I couldn’t let myself feel bad for her. I couldn’t let myself feel bad for anyone but me ever since Allison’s death. I didn’t even really notice that Jacob was in the room, so absorbed in my own self pity and hatred, and projecting it on her.
And then she did the one thing that could break through my walls. She comforted my child better than I could have. She comforted him like Allison had, like she would have wanted me to, like she would have wanted this kind stranger to.
I broke. She won.
And as I stared at her hazel eyes, her thick eyelashes, her full lips, and tight body, as I watched how delicately she cared for my son, a boy she had just met, I broke a little more. And the carefully constructed wall I built around my heart lost a brick. And it was thanks to Bridget Greene.
I actually wasn’t sure if I should stay. I mean, I wanted to for the money, for the possibility of some luxury vacation like qualities, for the adorable boy that was sitting on my bed and asking me too many questions all at once, and for the man whose heartbreak was so
apparent, I felt for him. And that was the reason I wasn’t sure I should stay.
To say Steven was gorgeous was an understatement, to say he cared about his son was obvious even if he clearly didn’t go about it the right way. And I could say that with certainty after only spending minutes with him. To say he was a downright asshole was like saying pigs did indeed not fly. But most importantly, to say the tiny moment of vulnerability he showed me without probably meaning to didn’t burrow its way into my heart would be a bold faced lie.
He was unquestionably a jerk, but from the very small, and I mean very small amount of pain he showed me buried beneath his hard exterior, I knew he was nothing like Jack the Jerk.
And that was another thing. I was done with men. At least for a while. Screw them. Screw Jack, and screw Steven.
“No brothers or sisters,” I answered one of Jacob’s questions while I continued to contemplate my situation and unpack my bag.
“Do you live with your daddy?” he asked. “Sometimes,” I responded.
“Does he yell a lot?” Jacob asked, his innocent curiosity breaking my heart. That’s when I decided I was going to fortify myself against men, specifically his dad, and stick around for sure. This little boy needed someone that would give him the attention he deserved. And I was the one to do it.
“You have my mommy’s hair,” he whispered so quietly I almost didn’t hear him, but I did. I stopped, frozen in mid air with a shirt clutched tightly in my hands. I only vaguely realized how strong my grip was.
“I mean, I didn’t know her, but I have her picture in my room. I can show you,” he said it so eagerly that I literally had to keep the tears at bay. As if my heart hadn’t been damaged enough by Jack the Jerk, now it was crumbling for this little boy.
“Yeah, I’d love that,” I told him as I let the shirt out from my death grip. “You can show me after we’re done putting my things away.”
“Okay,” he sounded so happy that I felt another layer of stone start to fall around my heart. “My daddy has the same picture. I see him hold it and cry sometimes when he doesn’t know I’m looking. But please don’t tell him,” he said as he looked around the room, his eyes wide and a little fearful.
And great. I don’t hate the douchebag boss anymore either. “Your secret is safe with me,” I said as I put the last item of clothing away.
“Want to see my room now?” “Sure buddy, let’s go.”
He grabbed my hand and led me to the room right next to his. “This isn’t my real room. Daddy told me this is just for the summer. My real room has all my video games. But I got to bring my old xbox here.” A six year old with an xbox and video games? Boy was I clearly behind on technology. “We can play together.”
“When we’re not outside,” I announced, making sure he knew we would be doing a lot of outdoor activities. There was no way I wasn’t taking advantage of this beautiful city, and I wasn’t going to let Jacob sit in his room all day staring at a TV. That’s not how we did things when I was growing up, and that’s not how I was going to let this boy waste away either. “And you’ll have to teach me,” I added, telling him the truth.
“You don’t know how to play?” he asked, staring at me as if I was some creature from outer space.
“When I was your age, we didn’t have video games like this. But I’m sure I could pick it up quickly.”
He nodded like he understood. Brat. I wasn’t that old.
“This is my mommy,” he said as he walked over to his nightstand. It was actually a picture of not just his mom, but his dad too, and technically Jacob as well. She had been pregnant with whom I assume was Jacob. She was beautiful, absolutely stunning, with light brown hair, the same color and length as mine, but styled differently. Bright pale brown eyes, a full bottom lip and high cheek bones. And she was glowing, like an angel practically. Right next to her, with his hands protectively on her belly, a smile so wide it was splitting his face in two was Steven. He was so utterly happy, and that made him even more handsome.
“She’s beautiful,” I said softly, honestly.
“She was,” I heard the gruff voice behind me and I jumped. “Oh, I…I was just…um…sorry,” I mumbled.
“Jacob, Ms. Greene and I-”
“Bridget, or Bridge,” I cut him off with a shrug.
I could see his jaw tighten and could tell he was either not accustomed to being
interrupted or it really bothered him when he was. “Bridget,” he said my name so tightly, I could physically feel myself being wrung out, “and I need to discuss some things. We’ll be in the
office for a little bit. Play some games until she gets back.”
“Yes Daddy,” Jacob responded, and I followed Steven out of the room and into his office where he shut the door and motioned for me to sit.
“Let’s see,” he started. “Where to begin. You’re primary duties are to watch my son, ensure he is well taken care of, no harm comes to him, his wellbeing is your first priority, do you understand?”
“Good. I have an important case I will be working on this summer, and I can’t have any distractions.”
“Case?” I asked.
“I’m a lawyer, Ms. Greene.”
“Please, call me Bridget, or Bridge, like I said,” I trailed off at the end of the sentence. “Bridget,” he said my name again like it was hurting his tongue. “Like I was saying, I
will need you to make sure Jacob doesn’t get in the way of things and the same goes for you.” “Won’t you be spending any time with your son?” I asked, genuinely curious and a little
surprised at what he was implying. “When time permits.”
“I see,” I said and tried not to sound judgmental even though I wholeheartedly was. I wondered briefly what happened to the man in the picture I had just seen, the one that looked like his family came first. Did he get lost when his wife died?
If he noticed the tone of my voice, he didn’t say anything or give anything away in his expression.
“I don’t expect you to clean or cook, although if you are so obliged to do so, I won’t stop you. But we do have a maid that comes twice a week, and a cook that comes three times a week. She’ll prepare dishes for the rest of the days or feel free to eat out or order in. You will get a weekly allowance and here is a credit card,” he spoke as he handed me a card. “Use it for any expenses you incur, but keep in mind I will monitor the charges so don’t try anything funny.”
“I wouldn’t,” I gasped.
“Very well. I think that covers most of it. If I think of anything else, I’ll let you know.” It sounded like a dismissal, but I wasn’t getting up and going that easily.
“Do you have a question, Ms. Gree, er, Bridget?”
“Forgive me if this is out of place, I know I’ve only just gotten here, but it’s pretty obvious that Jacob needs to spend time with you-”
I was cut off by Steven slamming his fist on the desk, startling me. “It is out of place,” he hissed. That was the first time in my life that I wasn’t sure what was worse – hissing or yelling.
“But he looks up to you,” I pleaded with him, realizing this very obvious fact from the few types of questions Jacob asked and the way he looked at his father.
“And I will continue to be a strong and powerful man he can be proud of.” “And what about being a strong and powerful dad?”
He slammed his fist down again, with more force this time and I flinched. “You are severely out of line, Ms. Greene. I am your employer, not your friend or even your peer. I’ll thank you to watch the tone you use with me, as well as the things you say. Jacob is my son. My son and I know what’s best for him. The only reason you are still here is because he likes you. Don’t make me send you away for his sake. I think we’re done here,” he said and actually
waved his hand at me.
I stood, nodded curtly, and started to walk out. I might have pushed. I might have crossed a line. But my heart was hurting for Jacob, and my heart was actually hurting for Steven too. Whoever this asshole was that I was literally on the verge of hating again after that conversation, he wasn’t the man I was sure was underneath, the man his son needed. His wife might have stopped living, but his son didn’t.
It wasn’t my place, I knew that, but I had grown up with the love of both parents and I
knew what a difference their attention and affection did. I just wanted the same for Jacob.
As I opened the door and closed it, my anger toward Steven was very close to overriding any empathy I had. However, I saw something through the sliver between the door and the frame right before I closed it shut. I saw Steven’s rigid posture crumble. I saw his back hunch over and his hand reach his forehead right as his head slumped forward, and I was pretty sure I saw his shoulders shake.
And that’s when I decided I hadn’t crossed the line. Nope. I hadn’t crossed it at all, not nearly enough. If Steven thought I had stepped out of place just then, he had another thing coming. I was saving his relationship with his son if it was the last thing I do this summer.
I didn’t realize how much I talked to myself until the week after Bridget arrived. Maybe it was because of her arrival that I talked to myself so much. “Focus,” I told myself several times over as I stared at documents and my computer screen. “Come on, Steven, focus,” I’d tell myself.
I hadn’t had an issue concentrating on work since I put all my energy into it around the time Jacob was three. Call me a shitty dad, but that was the only way I could get up every morning. If I had something to distract me from what I had lost, from looking at Jacob and knowing I’d never be enough for him, I’d never be able to hug him the way his mom did or kiss his boo-boo’s all better, then I could at least function.
I made sure Jacob got the best care when neither sets of grandparents could watch him. He didn’t even have to ask for anything. I just…I couldn’t be around him knowing I failed him as a parent. One of the greatest fears a man has when he learns he’s going to be a father is wondering how he’s going to protect his child from pain. Nothing I did could have prevented Jacob from losing his mother. Nothing I did could have protected him from that pain.
I had managed to tuck those feelings of guilt and shame into a dark corner somewhere deep in my soul, but somehow, just one week with Bridget around the house was having them come rushing to the forefront.
When they were in the house, it was hard to ignore her constant light laughter, so carefree, like she was singing a song about life with her laughter. I heard my boy giggle like he hadn’t done in ages. Every time I heard that sound coming from the other room, my heart beat faster in my chest. I was always tempted to step away from my desk just to see what they were doing. I managed to stay put most of the time, but I walked out of the office on two occasions.
The first time I followed their voices into the kitchen, where I found them both covered from head to toe in flour. Bridget’s head was thrown back as she laughed from the inside out, and Jacob with his hands full of flour trying to sprinkle more on her.
It was a moment meant for a mother and son, it was a moment meant for Allison and Jacob. I was torn between being both grateful to Bridget for being the right nanny for my little boy and hating her for taking this away from Allison. I knew the latter wasn’t rational, but I couldn’t help my thoughts.
“What’s going on here?” I asked, more sternly that I meant to. “Oh,” Bridget jumped. “I…we-”
“We’re making cookies,” Jacob announced. “No,” I replied. “You’re making a mess.”
“I’m sorry, Steven,” Bridget started. “We spilled some flour and then it somehow turned into a flour war, but I’ll clean it up after we’re done. I promise.” The way she spoke it seemed like she was afraid of what I’d say. I both loved and loathed that.
“Make sure you do,” I simply told her as I walked away. When I went back to the office, I thought back on the moment and my initial contempt of her started subsiding the minute I realized how truly wonderful the situation was that I had walked in on. Neither my parents nor Allison’s could let loose like that while baking Jacob some cookies. He needed that. I was a big enough man to see that and I was actually grateful for the misunderstanding that led to Bridget being the nanny.
Later that night, there was a light knock on my door, and it swung open before I had a chance to say anything. Bridget walked in carrying a plate of food and home baked cookies that smelled delicious. “I know you like to just heat up food when you’re done here, but the salmon tastes better fresh,” she stated as she set everything down in front of me. Only a few days and she had already figured out my routine.
“I…uh, thank you,” I responded, completely shocked by not only how wonderful everything looked and smelled, but by her consideration as well.
“You’re welcome,” she responded. “But if you have a few minutes, I know Jacob would love to eat with his dad.”
There it was again. Her pushy attitude. I frowned before answering with short, clipped words. “Can’t. Busy.” She nodded and walked out. I couldn’t handle sitting there having a normal meal. I just couldn’t.
It was about a week later that I heard wailing coming from somewhere in the house. I wasn’t immune to my son’s pain. At least not his physical pain. I got up and ran toward his voice, but stopped short when I saw him cradled in Bridget’s arms.
“It’s okay Jacob,” she told him as she examined his knee. “Just a little scrape. We’ll patch it up and put on a SpongeBob band aid on it. Then maybe you can go show your dad your boo-boo if he has a few minutes, okay?”
I barely knew what SpongeBob was, so I was a little more than impressed that Bridget did. I was both upset and somewhat pleasantly surprised that she had thought to recommend Jacob show me his scraped knee because she knew it would make him feel better, and I was having a hard time coping with the fact that she called it a boo-boo like Allison used to.
“I’m just going to put some alcohol on it first. It’s going to sting, but it will make the germs go away.” I watched as she told Jacob step by step what she was doing and he nodded as tears trailed down his cheeks.
And then she said something that made me literally run away like I was a track star trying to win the race and the finish line was far, far away from them.
“Aw, sweetie, don’t cry. I know it’s only been a little while, Jacob, but I love you, and I
don’t want to see any more tears, okay?”
“Uh-huh,” he responded as I was already fleeing. “I love you too, Bridgie,” he said loud enough that even though I was practically back in my office, I heard him.
I hadn’t had a heart since Allison died and took it with her. But if I had one, it would have broken in that moment.
If I had one, it would have felt the walls around it crumble.
If I had one, it would have squeezed tightly in my chest at both their admissions, at the nickname Jacob used for Bridget.
If I had one, it would have bled deeply with the jumble of emotions that were swirling through my body, most notably pain, fear, love, and hope.
If I had one, it would have cried for Allison, cried for Jacob, cried for the man I used to
If I had one, it would have felt the pull toward the woman across the house, a woman so
young and vibrant, so full of life, that she could potentially raise the dead…even if the dead consisted of me.
If I had one, I’d have put my head in my hands and sobbed, my whole body wracking
with the force of my tears, because I was afraid. For the first time since Allison was diagnosed, I
was truly afraid. And the person I was afraid of was me.
But I didn’t have a heart. At least, I didn’t think I did…until now.
I hadn’t exactly pushed Steven during my first couple of weeks. Honestly, I had been having such a wonderful time hanging out by the beach, going to various museums, shopping, especially shopping. Jacob was surprisingly good at telling me what worked and what didn’t.
“You don’t look pretty,” he’d say with a frown on his face, and scrunched nose.
“I like it,” he’d clap if he approved. The kid had good taste. I had to give it to him. We also shopped for him, and he always knew exactly what he wanted. We went bike
riding, played volleyball on the sand, explored the neighborhood, stayed in and watched movies, he even taught me a couple of video games. With all that going on, my pushy-skills were taking a back seat, but I did manage to squeeze in a few nosey moves. After the cookie incident, he seemed more polite toward me, nodding as we passed each other instead of his usual grunt for a “hello.” I even caught him staring at Jacob with a small smile ghosting his lips a couple of times when he left his office. There was the man I was trying to find. He was deep down somewhere, but he was still there. I just had to keep pushing along.
And then after about two weeks, things reversed. When Jacob tripped and fell over one of his toys, I took him in my arms and comforted the best I could. In a very short time, I had come to love that little boy. I loved the light in his eyes, the way he talked about everything and anything at once, how nothing seemed to get him down, and that charm he must have gotten from his mother since his father was a brut. Although, something told me he had been quite charming at one time...before his wife died.
I hadn’t realized Steven had been standing and listening to our conversation until I heard the shuffle of his retreating steps.
I wasn’t sure exactly what we had said that had gotten to him, but he pulled up his armor so tight across his body that no enemy forces would be able to get through. I tried to think of things to pull him out of his one-man fortress, but nothing I tried to do worked. I was on the verge of giving up. And then Jacob drew me back in.
We were building a sand castle on the beach when he looked up at me, sand all over his body, his face scrunched trying to block out the sun, “My grandma said my mommy used to make the best sand castles.”
“So that’s where you get it from,” I responded. “Because this one here is going to be awesome.”
He nodded like he agreed. “My grandma told me that when she took me to the beach and my daddy wasn’t there. He doesn’t like it when we talk about my mommy,” he said as he looked around to make sure Steven wasn’t around. And that’s when I decided enough was enough.
Jacob shouldn’t have to worry about bringing up his mom in front of Steven, and I shouldn’t have been so utterly unworried about Steven popping up right when Jacob was afraid he would. I knew there wasn’t a chance in hell Steven would have walked by then. He was too self- involved to spend time with his son, a son that needed him more than ever because he was all
that little boy really had. Sure, he had grandparents that clearly loved him, and he even had me. I wasn’t going anywhere, not even after the summer. He could call me, and even visit me if he wanted to anytime. But having a father was something totally different. Jacob needed that. So drastic times called for drastic measures.
It was only after I talked to Lily, the creative genius, that a plan was born. It was easy to find the number for Steven’s office, and even easier to convince his secretary to help me.
“Oh, child,” the obviously elderly lady said when I spoke to her, “I’ve been waiting for someone to light a fire under him for years now. Anything you need help with, I’m here.”
The next day, at precisely twelve in the afternoon, Jacob and I sat on a blanket in a nearby park with food, drinks, plates and utensils set neatly to the side, and a football by Jacob’s feet.
“Won’t my daddy be mad?” Jacob asked. “You let me worry about that, okay?”
I should have actually been worried, but instead I felt triumphant, almost smug when I
saw him walking toward us with a scowl on his face.
“What the hell is this? I don’t have time for this!” he asked as he pointed to the sign
Bridget was holding. It read: Steven Bennett’s 12PM Appointment.
“Hey Jay,” I looked toward Jacob, “can you go play on the jungle gym for a few minutes while your daddy and I talk?” He nodded, looked at his dad with a frown on his face, his eyes glassy with unshed tears and walked away.
“Tone down the cursing around him, yeah?” I posed it as a question, but it was more of a statement.
“Who the hell do you think you’re talking to?” he roared so loud a couple nearby actually turned to look at us.
“You’re making a scene,” I said as I stood up.
“That’s fine,” he hissed. “I’m leaving anyways,” he said and turned.
“Oh no you’re not,” I spoke as I grabbed his arm. He froze, looked down at my hand on his arm, then back at me, then back to my hand on his arm. His muscled flexed under my touch and I swear I felt a little spark go from his arm through my hand to my very core. I didn’t want to let go, I knew I had to but not without a compromise.
“I’ll let go if you hear me out.”
“I don’t have to do anything. You’ll let go of me or I’ll yank my arm out of your hand.” “I know, but please listen to me anyway.”
“You have two minutes,” he told me and I let go, instantly feeling cold all over.
“So I might have ambushed you a little,” I said in my best, “sweet, innocent” voice as I batted my eyelashes for effect. It didn’t work. “But you don’t see the way the boy over there looks up to you. He cherishes any scraps of affection you throw his way. You could have told me I was talking nonsense the first day, maybe the second, but it was plain to see even then. Now it’s been three weeks, and I know what I’m seeing. Maybe this was wrong, tricking you like this, but you’d have said no otherwise.”
“Of course I would have. I’m very busy.”
“I spoke to your assistant and she assured me you could take a few hours off.” “Of course she did,” he muttered to himself, sounding very angry.
“And she told me if you gave me any trouble to let her know and she’d make sure you didn’t.” That brought a reluctant smile to his lips, just a tiny one, but a smile nonetheless. “Anyway, the point is that you’re already here. Jacob and I set everything up. He’s been looking forward to this. Didn’t you see how happy he was to see you and how heartbroken he
was when he was sure this wasn’t going to go as planned. I know it’s difficult to be around him. It doesn’t take a genius to see you’re hiding away from him. I don’t know why, and that’s not my business.”
“Oh, but this is?” he asked sarcastically.
“Yes,” I responded without hesitation. “Because I love that boy. His happiness means a lot to me. And he needs you. If only for a few hours right now. Just sit down and talk to him, ask him about his favorite video games, toss the football around. It might be painful for you, sure, but it will mean the world to him. I’m not a parent, but I know that my parents would put aside their own happiness, would swallow their pain just to see me smile. You have the opportunity to do that for Jacob right now. Please, please do it for him.”
“You have no right orchestrating this,” he told me, but I could hear just based on the tone of his voice that he was conceiting defeat.
“I don’t, but I did it anyways because I want Jacob to be happy. Please help me make him happy.”
He glanced down at his watch, then looked back up. “Two hours.”
I couldn’t help it, I launched myself at him and hugged him. “Thank you, thank you.” I realized what I had done only after I felt him pat me on the back while his entire body stayed rigid. “Oh, I…um, I’m sorry,” I quickly said and turned to call Jacob over.
The first twenty minutes were completely awkward. I spent the entire time recapping what we had done so far to Steven, who interjected with one-word responses here and there. When we were done eating, I practically shoved him to play football with Jacob. I watched father and son doing something so simple and listened to Steven give Jacob pointers. I could
practically feel the tension leaving Steven’s shoulders. I could almost see his aura changing; I could visibly see his smile, hear his deep laugh, so low, rumbling through my entire body. I watched as his muscles rippled under his shirt as he caught the ball, or how his pants fit him so perfectly when he arched up to throw the ball. I watched as his hair fell a little in his face with
the light breeze blowing. And his eyes, even from this distance, the golden hue was so bright, so blinding, mostly because they had a happy glint to them.
And I realized as I watched him that I hadn’t thought about Jack the Jerk ever since I had met Steven. Jack the Jerk who? All I could see was Sexy Steven. Dear Lord, I thought my boss was sexy. I thought my vulnerable, brutish, broken boss was sexy.
He cut through my thoughts as he plopped down on the blanket beside me. I didn’t know what to say, and he just stared at Jacob as Jacob started playing with another boy. Finally, he broke the silence.
“I figured I’d let the boys play together for a little bit,” he said as if he was justifying the reason for his presence.
“That was nice,” I said because I had no idea what else to say.
We stayed like that for another minute or so until Steven turned to me and said two words
I never thought I’d hear. “Thank you.”
“Don’t thank me,” I responded, trying to hide the blush I knew was creeping up my neck. “No really, Bridget. I guess I needed this more than I thought. So thank you.”
“Well, I’m glad it all worked out.”
“Me too, me too,” he whispered. And then we were back to silence. When I finally couldn’t take it anymore, couldn’t take sitting next to him, feeling his body heat scorching my skin, listening to his even breaths, filling the silence with thoughts I shouldn’t have, I spoke.
“So tell me about yourself. I know you’re a lawyer, but what else?”
“I’m a father,” he smiled shyly, and I could actually hear my heart drop into my stomach.
“Really? What a shocker,” I played along. “But seriously…considering that I’m living with you, shouldn’t I know at least a few things about you?”
“There isn’t much to tell,” he answered, his voice somewhat coarse. “I work more hours than I have time in the day. That doesn’t leave much room for other stuff.” I was this close to saying it was completely by choice, but I screwed my lips shut. “And you? Why this job?
Don’t you have family, friends, or someone special missing you?” The way he said “someone special” like he was embarrassed to even say the words out loud had my heart slipping down to my feet. Thunk.
“I…uh…well, where do I start?” I laughed a little bitterly as I recalled the circumstances that led me here. “I just finished school,” I started. “I worked throughout college, but I gave notice to my last job right before I finished because I was going to take the summer off to plan our wedding. At least, that’s what Jack had wanted me to do.”
“Jack’s the fiancé?” he asked, and the lack of emotion behind his voice had me thinking a million different thoughts.
“Ex-fiancé,” I corrected. “I also didn’t renew my lease because we were going to move in together.”
“Oh,” Steven’s mouth formed the perfect “o,” and I found myself not giving one damn about Jack the Jerk. All I could think about was Steven’s lips. I had to literally shake my head to clear the thoughts and continue my story.
“‘Oh,’ is right. He left me high and dry when his ‘soul mate’ came along.” Yes, I totally used quotes around that.
“You don’t believe in soul mates?” he asked, his tone solemn but with his eyebrows raised in question. He looked absolutely adorable then. How a hot, sexy guy could look adorable was beyond me, but he did.
“I do think there are special people out there meant for us…it’s just that...well, I think there are people in this world that compliment us perfectly, that can touch our souls in a way no one else can. They light us up when life is dark, they laugh when others would balk, they comfort before comfort is needed. Sometimes these people come as best friends or family, and sometimes, they are perfect for you as your match, your other half. I just think you have to be really, really lucky to find them because they are scattered around the whole world. Most people find someone that fits enough qualities with just one tiny piece missing, and they think it’s enough. I guess that was Jack and I. Maybe Monica really is his perfect soul mate,” I shrugged. “If so, then I guess I’m happy for them. But I’m sad for me because that just means that I
haven’t found one of my perfect matches, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bitter for being jilted,” I added shyly.
Steven chuckled. “I guess I would be too,” he spoke and then there was silence. “I had that perfect match,” he spoke softly. “If what you say is true, I don’t think I’d be lucky enough to find a second match, even if I wanted to.”
“You never know,” I responded and put my hand on his to comfort him. He looked down and didn’t look back up, but he also didn’t ask me to move my hand. I took that as a positive sign.
“I’m sorry Jack wasn’t your perfect match,” he spoke slowly after a beat.
“Thank you, but I’m not. That just means I have a chance now to locate one of those few people thrown out there for me to find.”
He just nodded. “What about after the summer? What are your plans then?” he asked. “I have a job as a teaching assistant lined up for me.”
“Teaching assistant?” he asked, obviously wondering about the “assistant” part. “Yep. It’s just a starting position, but I hope to be a fulltime teacher soon.”
“You will,” he responded confidently. “And if they don’t move you up, you’ll just push your way up,” he smiled, his eyes crinkling at the corners. He looked down at my hand still on his, and it was like something in him broke. He shot up, and brushed himself off. “This has been great, Bridget. Really, thank you for this. I promise I’ll spend more time with Jacob, but for now, I really do have to get back to work.”
“No,” I stood up quickly, not wanting him to leave on account of whatever I had done, and right as I got up, my foot got caught on the blanket, sending me careening into Steven.
He broke my fall, but I could tell by his groan that it had cost him. “Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry,” I said as I tried to get up, but our feet were tangled.
“Please stop moving,” he said quietly and I froze, only realizing a moment too late as to why exactly he had asked me to stop wriggling around while I was still on top of him, our bodies perfectly aligned.
“Oh,” I said, this time I was sure my mouth had formed a perfect “o,” as I felt his not-so- subtle reason for asking me not to move. His very hard, very long, and very thick not-so-subtle reason.
I was pretty sure I drooled a little as I stared down at his face, which seemed to be in a state of panic, shock, and even pain all at once. I was paralyzed, unable to move, but apparently so was he because we just continued to stare at each other, his emotions splayed across his face.
I had the urge to smooth his furrowed brow, to brush my hand along his cheekbone, to lightly touch his lips with mine. And the way he was staring at my lips, I was sure he had a similar thought.
And then I remembered it was my overstepping in this exact direction, which now
seemed like a very tiny pebble in comparison to this giant rock, pun intended. And I managed to somehow break free of his grasp and his hold on me, and stood up.
“I’m…I’m so sorry about that. I’ll let Jacob know you had to go.”
“Bridge,” he said my nickname as he too stood up and I turned toward him, my face probably mirroring his own shock. He composed himself quickly. “Er, Bridget, it’s fine. And I’m sorry too. Thanks again for today,” he spoke, touched my arm lightly and went to tell Jacob goodbye before disappearing. I stayed clutching the spot his hand had touched, staring into space, wondering what the hell I was going to do. Because I was pretty damn sure I had never felt the way I was feeling now, with Jack, and I had only known Steven for less than a month, with very few encounters. I was pretty sure I had just found one of my counterparts if the soaring of my heart was any indication. So what was the issue? I looked at the empty spot Steven had vacated. That, that precisely was the issue. I was falling for a man that didn’t want to love again.
“Oh Allison, what the hell am I doing?” I asked out loud when I made it back home. If Bridget hadn’t stood up right at that moment, I would have pulled her face to mine and brushed my lips against hers.
After five days of trying to avoid her without it looking obvious, I was still thinking about her lips, about the way she opened up with me, the way she tried to push me, and the way she loved my kid. Everything she thought was written on her face. It was refreshing. Allison would have probably become instant friends with her. Bridget was…she was something else. She obviously didn’t let things get her down or stop her. People like that were hard to find nowadays. She could probably even make the devil himself smile with genuine happiness.
As a result, I found myself talking more and more with Allison. Luckily, most of it was in my head, but it didn’t really help as she wasn’t answering me.
“What am I supposed to do?” I asked as I looked at our picture on my desk. “I…I like her, Allison. God help me, I’ve tried not to. Please help me,” I begged the picture even though I knew it was no use.
And then I heard shrieking in the form of, “Surprise,” from the other room. And somehow, I knew Allison had sent the two women who mattered most in my life to help me figure things out.
“Mom, Julie, what are you two doing here?” I asked my mom and Allison’s mom as I
made it to the front door.
“You didn’t really think we could stay away from our little guy all summer, did you?”
“I thought that was the point?” I asked, and I knew the minute the words were out of my mouth that they sounded as bad out loud as they did in my head. “Er, sorry.”
“Don’t worry, dear, we know you don’t mean it. Besides, it’s just a couple of hours drive. We’ll be out of your hair by the end of the day,” my mom answered. “Now come give us kisses and point us to Jacob.”
I hugged them both. “Jay’s out on the beach with Bridget,” I told them. “Who’s Bridget?” Julie asked.
“Miss Greene, the nanny.”
“Oh, I see,” she responded and looked at my mom. I froze, afraid they’d see my feelings. “I, uh, I’m sorry, but I have a lot of work to do. If you just head through those doors,
you’ll see them.”
“Oh no, Stevie,” my mom tsked. “We didn’t come here to have you hide away all day. We’re spending time as a family.”
“It’s just a few hours,” Julie added. I had a hard time saying no to her. I mean, I still did all the time, but the guilt I felt about not being able to save her daughter made me more
compliant when it came to her. I didn’t even have to answer; she knew she had me. “Good, now let’s go see Jay and you can introduce us to Bridget.”
So I did.
We spent the day on the beach mostly, taking a couple of breaks to eat. My mom and Julie were instantly taken with Bridget. I knew this by the way they embraced her and included her in every conversation, not to mention the third degree she got. I learned that her best friend had been the one to get her this job, that she played the piano when she was younger, she liked to
play practical jokes on her parents until high school, she wore braces, she was the handball queen in elementary school and a whole slew of other interesting facts.
I also spent the entire time trying not to look at her, look at the way her hair blew in the breeze, or her smile. It was even harder not to touch her, but I managed to do that just fine. The only moment where I was at a total loss was when my mom and Julie took Jacob to get some ice cream and left me and Bridget alone.
“They seem nice,” she said, her voice soft, nervous even. “Your mom is funny, and Julie is great. If your wife was anything like her, I can see why you fell in love with her.”
“Yeah,” I responded like an idiot. “I…uh…thank you for everything. I mean, thank you for taking care of Jacob. You’re good with him.”
“He’s a wonderful boy. I adore him. I know it’s probably too soon to talk about this, seeing as we still have the entire summer but I was wondering if I could still keep in touch with him after.” I was stunned speechless. “If not, I understand. It’s just that I love him so much, and I would be heartbroken if he just up and left my life.”
I was about to respond and tell her that she wouldn’t be the only one heartbroken when we parted ways at the end of the summer, but Jacob, my mom, and Julie came back.
“I like her,” Julie told me when Bridget and Jacob went to play in the water one last time before the day was done. “She’s a great girl. And the way she is with Jay…Allison would love it.”
“Yeah, I guess I lucked out with her,” I nodded. “And she’s beautiful,” my mom added.
“And young and vibrant,” Julie said.
“And such a good heart,” they kept going. “Yeah,” I simply interjected every few lines.
“It’s been four years,” Julie spoke softly. “It’s okay to live again, Steve,” she said, “like you have today. I haven’t seen this side of you since Ali was alive.”
“I can’t,” I choked up.
“She would have wanted you to move on, to keep going, if not for you, then for Jacob.” “But she’s gone,” I cried.
“Yes, but you’re not, and neither is Jay. And that girl right there, the one you are obviously fighting your feelings for. She’s not either.”
“It’s okay,” my mom added. “It’s okay to love again,” she said. “But Allison,” I started and Julie cut me off.
“I’m Ali’s mother, Steve,” she stated the obvious. “A parent isn’t supposed to bury her child. If there is anyone here that understands your grief, it’s me. And I’m the one telling you
it’s okay to move on. And if Ali was standing here instead of me, she’d tell you the same. She’d tell you that you were wasting your time sitting here talking to us instead of going after what you want, what you need. And you need her, Steve. And if you weren’t too scared to notice it, it looks like she needs you too.”
“I’m afraid,” I admitted.
“That’s normal,” my mom said. “But what do you have to lose? Go for it,” she smiled warmly and patted my hand the way she did when I was younger. “Take a chance, Stevie. Take a chance and you won’t regret it.”
I looked at Julie again, and she nodded, and simply mouthed, “Go,” before I was up and running.
“What…what are you doing?” Bridget laughed as I headed into the water still wearing all my clothes.
“Jay,” I spoke to my boy right next to her. “Do me a quick favor and head over to your grandmas for a second, yeah?”
He simply nodded and started out of the water. I really did have the best kid in the world. “What’s going on?” Bridget asked, worry in her voice, her brows scrunched together. “This,” I answered and crashed my lips against hers before she could protest.
She tasted like apples from her gloss, salt from the ocean, and hope just for me. “Wha…what was that?” she asked, breathless, her eyes glazed over, as she touched her
lips with her hand. I smiled smugly. I knew I did.
“I know I’m an asshole most of the time,” I started. “I work too much, I have hang-ups like you can’t even begin to contemplate, and I had a wife I loved more than life itself so when she died, I figured she took all the love I had, with her. I was wrong. I realized with you, that I still have plenty more love to give. And you were right. There has to be a few people out in the world that are perfect for you and me. I have to believe that because there has to be a reason
why you were sent here. Why you were sent to me. What I’m trying to say is I’m falling in love with you, Bridget,” I told her honestly. “I have been since the day you walked in to my house, and I’m standing here, drenched in this freezing water, making a fool of myself, quoting my
mom when I ask you to please take a chance on me, take a chance on us. Don’t stay the summer as just a nanny, stay so I can show you that you’re my perfect half and I will do my absolute best to show you I’m yours. Give us this summer. Please, Bridge,” I smiled as I said her nickname. “Please take a chance on me.”
She smiled shyly, bit her lip, and whispered words that never sounded so good, “I already did.” She kissed me fiercely, with all the love I had given her, she gave it right back.
“Oh, and Stevie,” she mocked the nickname my mom had been calling me all day. “I’m falling in love with you too.”
Twelve years later…
“Mom, stop,” Jacob pushed my hands away as I tried to fix his cap for the tenth time. It felt like just yesterday I was his nanny, and then Steve asked me to give us a chance, and of course I did. I was falling for him way before I even realized it. That summer turned into the fall, then a year, then two, then we were engaged, married, and had Abby, who was currently trying to get Jacob’s attention. We wanted to name her in honor of Allison, but it was a little too weird to give her that name, so we went with Abigail. Similar but completely different.
I watched as Abby tugged on Jacob’s gown; she absolutely adored her big brother, and he loved her just as much. When he found out we were going to have a baby, he was thrilled, but announced immediately that it better be a boy. As soon as we found out it was a girl and explained that he would act like her protector, he changed his tune.
It had been fairly easy to find a teaching job when I moved to California permanently to be with Steve and Jacob, and the hours allowed me to be home when Jacob was done with school. But when we had Abby, I decided to stop working and be a fulltime stay-at-home mom, and I haven’t regretted it since.
It wasn’t until Steve and I were married that Jacob found the courage to ask if it was alright to call me mom.
“I know I have a mommy in heaven,” he said. “And I won’t forget her, but you’re my mommy here.”
I cried with joy, and so did Steve, but I know his tears were bittersweet.
“You can call her mommy, Jay,” Steve assured him, and I’ve been mom ever since. In my heart, he was my son. And now he was graduating and I was crying with joy again.
“He’s not going anywhere for the summer,” Steve said as he pulled me to him. “And college is just an hour away.”
“I know,” I said in between tears. “But he’s all grown up,” I whined. “Kids will do that,” Steve chuckled.
“Oh you, hush,” I chided, but giggled as well. “I love you,” I told him as I leaned into his
“I love you, Bridge,” he said as he spun me around and brushed his lips against mine.
“And I’m thankful every day that you took a chance on me.” “Me too,” I said against his lips. “Me too.”