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Sweet Babysitter (A Virgin Single Dad Romance) by Lila Younger (1)


 

 

 

 

 

 

Penny

In my mind, Saturdays are shopping days. It all started back in grade 7, when my mom finally allowed me to take the bus to our local shopping mall. We don’t exactly have that many exciting things to do here in Richmond, so I was thrilled. And ever since, my best friends Sarah and Jen and I have made it a point to head to the mall every Saturday morning. Of course, it’s more like Saturday afternoon by the time we wake up and get ready these days, but still.

This Saturday I had a bigger plan in mind than just buying a new denim skirt or floral dress. I work as a hostess, but the hours are terrible, and there’s no way to advance since it’s a family restaurant. Literally every other position is taken up by some family member. I think they only hired me on because they ran out of relatives. So I’m going to try and apply at a few places in the mall. I’m nineteen and still living at home, not going to college, not doing anything really. When I first told my parents I wanted a gap year, they told me that I would be allowed on the condition that I was either a) saving up for college or b) trying to find a proper job. And honestly… I’ve done neither of those things. I mean, it’s not for lack of trying, I swear. It’s just I go to the mall and Sarah will mention that I look great in a pair of jeans, or Jen will spy the perfect pair of boots, and suddenly all my good intentions go out the window. At least I’m dressed for whatever I’ll do in life, even if I don’t exactly know what that is.

I survey my outfit critically. It’s the blah season when winter’s almost gone but spring hasn’t decided to come, and while everyone else’s wardrobe reflects that, I decided to fully embrace the future. I’ve got a beautiful pale pink sweater on with bell sleeves, paired with white skinny jeans and knee high brown leather boots. No dark, moody colors for me today. I pull my hair up into a messy bun, and swipe on some mascara and blush, and out the door I go. I don’t like to throw on lots of makeup, even though I’m definitely a girly girl. I went through a horrid breakout phase in grade 10, and I had to stop all makeup. That’s when I discovered it was the makeup making my face break out in the first place. I miss those days of putting on tons of makeup and looking ultra-glamorous, but I definitely don’t miss the acne!

Sneaking one last glance at the mirror to make sure I’m looking good, I grab my purse and head out of the bedroom. As I pass by my younger brother’s room, I think wistfully how nice it would be if I had a sister instead. Then there would be twice the closet space and clothes to share between us! Oh well.

The kitchen smells deliciously of bacon and eggs as I walk in. My dad’s at the stove, spatula in hand as he pushes food around in the skillet. In my family, dad is the cook. My grandma is Italian, and she passed on all the family recipes and a love for cooking. And he’s not shy with the butter either. That probably explains the twenty extra pounds I’m carrying around the hips, but the stuff he makes is so, so good. He sometimes talks about opening a restaurant when he’s retired, and I’d be his number one customer. He dishes up some bacon and an egg onto a plate, then slides it in front of my mom.

“Here you go honey,” he says, dropping a kiss on my mom’s head.

“Thank you,” she says, looking up from her iPad where she reads the New York Times. “You’re the best.”

I walk toward the coffee pot and pour myself a cup of joe. Reaching for the sugar, I dump a few tablespoons in. I hate the taste of coffee, but I love the smell and the pick me up.

“What’s your plan today Penny?” mom asks me.

“It’s Saturday, so the mall with Jen and Sarah,” I say as I take a sip of coffee.

She shakes her head. My mom’s hair is auburn, like mine, though she keeps hers cut short in a no nonsense cut and I like mine long. She’s a lawyer, and she says that the haircut helps her be taken seriously in court.

“You need to find a job,” she says. This is what she says every. Single. Week. “Or maybe, you could look at some of those college brochures I got you yesterday?”

My heart sinks. I hate this talk. Just because she knew what she wanted to be when she was five years old doesn’t mean everyone else does. My mom did it all. She grew up the fifth kid in a blue collar family, was the first to go to college, somehow got good enough grades to get a scholarship to Stanford, then married her first boyfriend and together they founded their own boutique law firm. She’s the American success story.

“I’ll look at them when I get home,” I say. “I’m going to drop off some resumes in the stores.”

“You want to work in a store?” The disapproval drips off every word.

“Well I love clothes, and you’re always saying I should try to find a job that I’ll be passionate about.” Clearly that didn’t include retail in her mind, but that’s what’s in mine.

Besides, I don’t really have a passion. Well, that’s not true. I just don’t have one I can think of. I’m not aggressive enough to be a lawyer, as my mom has told me before, and I faint at the sight of blood. I hate math, so accounting is out, and sitting down all day at a desk makes me want to scream. I like things to be changing and moving, which was why working at the restaurant suited me. But I can’t be a hostess forever. So why not try to work in the fashion world when I love clothes so much?

“I think you could be very well suited to it,” my dad says encouragingly as he hands me my plate of breakfast. “You’ve always got a good eye for color and what looks good on someone. Maybe you could become one of those personal shoppers.”

I brighten up. Trust my dad to come to my rescue. I won’t say I’m his favorite, because he’d never say that, but he does always defend me in front of mom.

“If it’s a job you’re looking for, I’ve got something for you,” my mom says, changing the subject.

She does this whenever dad speaks up for me, but I know it’s not over yet. She’ll just wait until later, when dad’s at golf or something.

“A job?” I ask warily, setting the plate and cup of coffee down across from her.

“Yes, it’s a temporary nanny position,” my mom says.

I sit up a little more. I babysat back in high school and I always enjoyed it. The only reason I stopped was because more than hostessing or retail, babysitting was the kind of thing one did when they were in high school. I know some people are awkward around kids, but I’ve never had that trouble. And unlike most adults, kids are really honest and straightforward. There’s no scheming and manipulating and saying one thing but meaning another with kids. At least, not for anything more serious than T.V. after dinner when really they should be doing homework.

“I thought you want me to find a serious job,” I say suspiciously.

“I do,” she replies, “but this comes from a friend of a friend. They’re quite desperate, and the pay is fantastic. He’s willing to pay $40 per hour if you could start Monday.”

My eyes go wide. Forty an hour? My mind spins, calculating just how much that would make. I’d easily be able to save up for whatever I wanted, including maybe a pair of Louboutin pumps, my Holy Grail. Those red soled shoes are so distinctive, yet classy. And of course, Sarah and Jen would be so jealous!

“…if he likes you you’d probably be able to afford college in time for fall semester. It’s quite perfect,” my mom sums up. “Don’t you think?”

“Oh absolutely,” I tell her. “Do you know what the kids are like?”

She lifts up her phone and scrolls for a few seconds.

“Hm, there’s a daughter, eleven, and a younger one who’s… six.”

I make a rapid calculation as I cut up some bacon.

“So kindergarten and grade 5. That’s not so bad.”

“They’d be in school most of the time,” dad says. “Do they really need a nanny?”

“Yes. You’ll really only be needed in the afternoon, to drive them to lessons and such, although the father works some late nights a couple times a week.”

I do a mental cheer at the thought of still being able to sleep in. Nothing to do with Netflix binges of course…

“I’ll do it.”

“Excellent. I’ll forward your details over.”

I get up from the table, dropping off the dishes into the dishwasher. It’s looking full, so I throw in a pod and press the button to run it. This means I’ll definitely have to quit at the restaurant, I think. I’ll miss everyone, but I do so love kids that I don’t feel all that terrible. I’m sure that they’ll be able to replace me easily over there. And like mom says, if they really like me, then maybe I’ll be able to stay on. It pays way more than any other job I can get, that’s for sure, so as long as I say I’m saving up for college, mom might finally get off my back for a while.

“See you later,” I tell the two of them.

What a perfect solution, I think, not realizing just how right I was.

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