Substitute Family Chapters 24 and 25

Chapter 24

The next day was a Saturday. Emily set her alarm for 6:00, but was awake before 5:00, since her body clock was still on Michigan time. She showered and dressed in jeans and a comfortable T-shirt, and took her lightweight jacket with her. After braiding her hair and putting on a little makeup, she walked down the two flights of stairs and knocked on

Garret’s door.

Garret answered the door, with both toddlers peeking out from behind his legs clad in sweatpants. “Good morning,” he said, a little gruffly. “We’ve been up since 5:00 here.”

“They’re still on Michigan time,” she reminded him with a pleasant smile. “It could be worse. They could have gotten up at 5:00 Michigan time.” His eyes widened at the realization of how early that would be.

“We already ate, but if it’s okay with you, I would like to get in the shower while you’re here to keep an eye on them.”

Emily ate toast and cereal with a banana sliced on top of it. The twins went from the kitchen to the living room and to their bedroom, where most of their toys were. By the time Garret was showered and dressed, they had managed to bring toys from their bedroom and had them scattered in every other room of the apartment.

“It looks messy already,” Garret said with a bit of a grumble. “It looks lived-in,” Emily corrected him with a smile.

Garret carried the extra boxes, the wagon and grill out to the storage shed. He also took Emily’s boxes out as well, while she kept the twins occupied in the little space of yard out front. Garret moved the car seats into his car from Emily’s, and they took a leisurely drive around the neighborhood. Emily liked the looks of the homes they passed. Most of them were in good repair, with nice landscaping in the small yards. The college had a lot of trees and bushes on the streets around it.

Leaving the neighborhood, Garret took the most direct route to the large chain grocery store that he shopped at. Emily was glad to have one so close.

“I’m not sure I will ever find it again.”

“You can probably Google it when you are ready to go by yourself.”

They each took a cart, with a child in it. Chloe clung to Garret more than Emily. Emily was glad to see the bond that they had, in spite of the many weeks of not being together. Cody was fine with either Garret or Emily taking care of him, but watching over him meant staying one step ahead of whatever action he might decide to take. Garret agreed that Emily was better at that because she had so many months of taking care of him.

“I’ll get reacquainted with him again,” Garret resolved. “But he will keep me on my toes.”

Garret deferred to Emily on what groceries to purchase. She did not bring a list with her and hadn’t thought up a menu plan, so they picked up the easy fixing stuff like pasta and prepared sauces, and ingredients for tacos. Garret picked up a large package of boneless chicken. “Let’s do fajitas one night.”

“Sounds good. That will be your night to cook, right?”

“We’ll get out the grill in the back parking lot,” he said. “Fajitas are better with grilled chicken.”

They had individual tastes when it came to cereal, bread and sandwich fixings. Garret picked up a few packaged rice and noodle mixes that he liked for quick lunch ideas. Emily picked up fresh fruit and veggies to have on hand in her own apartment.

“I should have more green things in my cart, too,” he said. He grabbed a package of prepared salad greens. “There, something green.”

“How do you want to pay for this?” Emily asked. “Should we put it all together and figure it out later?”

“Figure what out?”

“I buy my own groceries, and use the debit account for the groceries I buy to feed the kids and for the dinners I make that we share.”

“You’ve been doing that all along?”

“Yes, I thought you knew that’s what I did.”

“I never thought about dividing it up,” Garret said.

“I don’t expect my breakfast and lunch items to come out of your money. Those come out of my check.”

Although they were talking quietly, the fact that they were standing in an aisle with two full grocery carts and toddlers who were starting to fuss was drawing unwanted attention.

Garret was embarrassed. “I’ll just pay for it all today and we can sort it out later.”

On the way back to the apartment, Emily convinced him that she should continue to pay for her own groceries. “That way I don’t feel like I have to stick to a certain budget or that I can’t buy the things I really want to eat.”

“If that’s the way you’ve been handling it, I’m okay with it. As long as you’re not buying the groceries out of pocket for our dinners or for the kids.”

“I’ve been using your debit card for that.”

“As you should. And I will revisit the amount that I’ve been putting into the account. You said the diapers were more expensive in that store than where you get them at home.”

“Because Peg and I go to the big box store once a month and buy big packages of them, and the household supplies. But with this limited space, we won’t be able to do that, so we will be paying a little more accordingly.”

Garret sighed. “Julie always handled the household budget, but I’ve got to sit down and put some numbers on paper. Utilities are included in the price of the studio but not my apartment, for some reason that’s how the landlord set it up. I need to have a clear picture of how much money it will take to cover everything.”

“I thought you said you could afford to hire me as a nanny and pay for an apartment,” Emily said.

“I can. I have a general idea of how much everything is costing, but I need to keep better track of how much I’ve been spending.”

“You probably won’t be eating out as often now, which will save you some money,” she suggested.

“True. Or hanging out with the guys after work on Friday nights.” She was surprised. “I didn’t realize you did that.”

“I don’t.” He grinned at her.

She slugged him on the shoulder. “Why would you say that?”

“I wondered how you would react. Your eyes were spitting fire.”

“It isn’t any of my business how you spend your Friday nights,” she said. “But if you are going to be hanging out in clubs or going on dates, you will have to find a babysitter. My job ends at six.”

“Is that what we are to you? A job?”

She smiled. “Now whose eyes are spitting fire?”

“I’m not going to slug you like you did me,” he said, rubbing his shoulder as if it was still sore.

From the grocery store, Garret drove around the city, showing her the downtown area where his office was located. He drove past the gym that he had a membership to. Emily recalled from last fall that it had a pool. “I’d like to sign up for a membership there,” she said. “I can see if they have an aerobics class in the evenings.”

“They have day care if you want to go during the day. I don’t mind if you take time out and take them to the gym with you. In fact, it will give you a break from watching them for a couple of hours.”

“That’s my job, to watch them,” she said, seeing him wince when she called them a job.

“I know how long the days can get when there are just the kids to talk to,” he said. “I’m a single parent. I know it’s important to have some adult conversation and activities for yourself.”

“You’re probably aware that I did that when I watched them the last few months. I was involved in a Bible study where they had day care, and Melanie and I took them to the gym and left them in the day care there during aerobics classes.”

After a lunch of spaghetti and bagged salad, they took the kids to the park. It was a beautiful sunny day. “I can’t believe it is so nice here in late December,” Emily said. “I am really going to enjoy this weather.”

“Until mid-summer,” Garret said. “Then it will be too hot to enjoy doing anything outside, in the afternoons especially.”

He did not mention that she might not be around in the summer. He appreciated her help in getting them settled in their new home, but he wondered how long she would be content to be a nanny. He could not pay her what she had earned as a teacher, and he figured she would get tired of watching toddlers full time at some point. He hoped not, though, because she made his life easier.

They arrived back at the apartment house. The twins had fallen asleep in their car seats. They each carried one child into the house and laid them on their beds, where they stayed sleeping.

“I’m going to head upstairs,” Emily said.

“Why don’t you take the night off,” Garret told her. “I’m going to keep it pretty low-key when they wake up and grill hot dogs for their supper.”

“Russ and Denise gave me the name of a church and pastor that they know here in Dallas,” Emily said. “I’d like to go tomorrow. I’ll need to find out how to get there.”

Garret could not tell Emily that she couldn’t go until after they were settled into their new homes. He had told her that about taking the kids. But what she did on her own time he had no control over.

He sighed. “If you want to bring the address down in the morning, I’ll help you figure it out.”

Chapter 25

Emily dressed for church in a flared skirt and light blue sweater. She left her hair down, and it fell past her shoulders in loose curls. After she was all ready, she took her purse and the address for the church and went downstairs, locking her door behind her.

The twins were in their booster seats at the table. Emily was impressed to see that Garret had fixed pancakes and sausage links.

She handed Garret the paper with the address on it.

“I know where this is. It’s clear across the city. Are you sure there isn’t a closer one to go to?”

Her lower lip trembled, and he sighed. He looked up the address on Google and made a couple of notations for an easier path.

“That should take you there without any problem.”

The church was all that she had hoped it would be. There were people of all ages in the service. The music was contemporary, and the time of worship filled Emily’s heart with praise and joy. The message from the pastor spoke of a new commitment to the Lord’s work in a New Year. Emily could relate much of what he said to the new job that she had taken on with the move to Dallas.

The church bulletin was filled with activities and events, and she took special note of a Bible study for single adults on the first Tuesday of the month. That meant the first study would be coming up this week. She was glad she would have a chance to attend.

After church was over, Emily found the children’s department. She observed the nursery for children the same age as Chloe and Cody. It was roomy and clean, except of course for toys that were scattered around on the floor. She stood for a moment and watched the parents come and pick up their children, and was glad to see them use a checkout system similar to the church back home. One of the workers, a tall, large-framed woman in her mid-forties, saw Emily hovering near the nursery door. She stepped over the gate and walked towards her with a polite but curious smile.

“May I help you?”

“I was checking out the nursery. I’m a nanny to twin toddlers, and I would like to bring them here with me.”

The woman smiled. “That would be wonderful. Is this your first Sunday with us?”

Emily nodded. “I just moved down here from Michigan.”

“You’re a long way from home. And you said you are a nanny?” Emily could see the curiosity in the dark eyes behind the large, tortoise shell glasses.

“Yes, for my cousin’s children. My name is Emily Riley.”

“I’m Miriam Lancashire. I’m the nursery director, and I teach in the nursery department two Sundays a month, to make sure things run according to plan. We do stories and songs with them, and they have a snack each week. Will their parents be coming to church also?”

Emily shook her head. “No. Their mom, my cousin, passed away a year ago. Their dad said he is not ready to go to church yet, although he admits that he should.”

“We’ll have to pray that God will change his heart,” Miriam said with a smile. Then her eyes narrowed thoughtfully. “Are you a live-in nanny?”

“No,” Emily said, with a red face, but she did not explain to the kind stranger just how close the two apartments were. She was comfortable with their choice of location, but she was not certain everyone in the church would approve.

“Well, you never know nowadays.” Miriam’s voice was kind. “We hope to see you back here, and we would love to have the children come.”

Emily followed Garret’s map to find her way back to the apartment house. She was hungry, and her first thought was to go upstairs and change into comfortable clothes, and eat some lunch. When she reached the house, though, she saw Garret in the front yard with the twins and some of their ride-on toys.

She parked the car and walked around to the front of the house. “Memmy!” Cody cried, running over to her. She leaned down and hugged him, and when Chloe lifted up her arms, she picked her up.

“Hi, Garret,” she said, looking over at him.

“They sure are happy to see you,” he said, with a look that told her he was happy to see her, as well. “So, how was the church?”

“Very similar to the one back home. I liked it. What have you guys been up to?” Chloe wiggled and she set her back down on the ground. She toddled over to the toy car and climbed in, honking the horn and smiling.

“Been all around town, I see,” she answered her own question with a grin.

Garret laughed. “We’ve been busy out here for the past half-hour or so. I fed them lunch, and then we decided to get out in the fresh air.”

“They should be ready for a good nap soon,” she said.

“I’ve got some work to get caught up on.”

“I thought you closed the shop for the week.”

“We did, but a problem came up with one of the programs. I might need to go in this afternoon and take care of it.”

“If you do, give me a call and I’ll come down and watch the kids,” she offered.

“It’s a weekend. I don’t want to take advantage of your time.”

“I’m here to help out. I never considered this a nine-to-five job, Garret. I know there will be times when you work overtime, or have extra work on the weekends. You did last summer when I worked for you, and it’s okay if you do.”

He looked relieved. “Thanks, Em. I’ll give you a call if I need to go in.”

“I was wondering anyway if I can come over this afternoon and do some laundry.”

“You can use the washer anytime.”

“It’s your apartment. I can’t come and go as I want to.”

“You can, you know. Like you said, it isn’t a nine-to-five job. Anytime you need to do laundry, give me a call first, and we can work it out.”

Emily went upstairs and fixed a sandwich and salad for her lunch.

She was glad they had discussed some boundaries for the nanny/employer position. They had both been living on their own since August, she in the house in Michigan with the kids, and he as a bachelor at an apartment here in Dallas. They needed a good working relationship if things were going to go well.

Garret called Emily an hour later and asked if she would stay with the kids while he went to the office. “Bring your laundry with you,” he said. “The washer is empty.”

She brought two loads of laundry with her. The kids were happy to see her, and she spent some time playing with them while the clothes were washing. The afternoon stretched out until supper time. They hadn’t really planned to fix anything for supper. She made up grilled cheese sandwiches for Chloe and Cody. After they ate, she played one of their music DVD’s on the big screen TV.

End of Chapter 25

Come back next week to read Chapter 26 of Substitute Family.

Published by Carol Underhill

Author of Christian romance. Mom to 3 adult children and a spoiled Lab. Household includes several rescued cats. Loves flavored coffees and quiet mornings. Likes finding new authors on Kindle and binge reading all their books.

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