I am so sorry. I did not mean to take that long between updates but of course, life happened - as it sometimes does. Thank you so much for your continued support of this story. It feels good to be writing it.
Chapter Four. The First Day.
Brett tries to focus on practice and not think about Henry and how his day with Emily is going. He feels a gnaw of guilt low in the pit of his stomach for how he had left that morning. He hadn't given Emily much instruction as to what to do but he had just assumed she knew what she was doing. She seems to be capable and Henry smiles a bit more around her and that is definitely something.
Still, she doesn't know Henry or what he likes or what he likes to do and Brett can't imagine the kid telling her. He doesn't really talk to anyone besides him, even being quiet around his parents and Jenna and her husband and kids. But with Emily, at least he still smiles and that is the whole reason Brett hired her in the first place. He knows that Henry is going to probably be fine and Emily will be fine, too, but still, he thinks about his son and worries a little bit and he knows that that is normal after leaving his only kid with a new nanny.
He and Jenna have had more than one conversation about Henry. His parents are typical grandparents and think that all of their grandchildren are absolutely perfect and nothing could ever possibly be wrong with any of them but Brett supposes he and his sister are the realists in the family. They always have to be. Shawn Simon is a photographer and Ophelia Simon is a sculptor and they have a particular way of looking at the world that others don't. That's what makes them such successful artists.
However, none of their artistic talent have been inherited by their children, with one being an accountant and the other being a professional athlete. And their views of the world haven't been passed down to them either. While Shawn and Ophelia get hung up on how beautiful one tree is, Brett and Jenna can see the whole forest. Brett knows there is nothing wrong with viewing the world either way but Brett is able to look at his son and look at his nieces and nephews and know that something isn't one hundred percent right.
Jenna had given him the name of a kid's therapist that she knows is used by the parents of some of her kid's own friends and Brett has the business card in a drawer in his bedroom but he hasn't been able to call the number yet. He can't bring himself to because even though he knows something isn't quite right, he isn't ready to actually take that first step and admit it.
"You can have one of mine," Jenna jokes with him, trying to get him to smile. Jenna, who's just twenty-eight and already has four kids with her husband, Pete. "Ever since they learned how to talk, Pete and I've been wanting them to shut up again."
Brett tries to reason with himself. Henry is just three-years-old. There is nothing wrong with being shy. There is nothing wrong with not being a chatterbox like his cousins or the young kids of the other guys on the team with him. There is nothing wrong with his son. Maybe he actually just misses his mom. Brett can't see how anyone can miss Vanessa but she is Henry's mom and it can be a possibility.
Still… him having a smile for Emily is important and the decision to hire her as the new nanny after Clara was an easy one for him to make.
Taking a little break and standing at the bench, squirting water into his mouth, he watches some of the new kids on the team. Some will make the cut. Others will be bumped down to the minors to spend some time playing there before being given another shot at the big leagues. He tries not to think of Steve Mullins, who had also been a Knight defenseman with him and together, they had been a force to be reckoned with in the league. But at the end of last season, Steve had gone and asked for more money and the Knights management decided to trade him to Colorado.
This is the first season in four years that he won't be playing with Steve next to him and he's already dreading going up against him and Colorado on the schedule.
Someone skated to a stop next to him, grabbing his own water bottle, and Brett turns to see Stanis Youric, a right-wing and who is now his closest friend on the team now that Steve's no longer on the ice with them. Stan is from Slovakia and has been known as the Slavic Giant of the NHL. Brett sometimes wonders if his friend would have played football if he had been born in another part of the world because Stanis looks more like a linebacker on a football team than a hockey player.
But he's a hell of a hockey player. One of the best in the league and he may be old by league standards – already thirty-seven years old – but Brett can't imagine anyone replacing Stan any time soon.
"Coach is in a bad mood today," Stan comments, watching their Head Coach, Coach S, short for Sandervol, on the ice, blowing his whistle every few seconds so he can yell some more at his passing players.
"How can you tell?" Brett asks and Stan, having just taken a swig of water, does his best not to chuckle as he swallows.
And once he does, Stan turns his head to him. "Do you and Henry want to come over for dinner tonight? Samantha is making her own sarma for the first time and it's going to be a disaster but she still wants to try."
Brett doesn't know what sarma is but he smiles a little anyway and tries not to be jealous of his friend. There's no reason to be. Stan is one of the best guys he knows and he deserves a wife who is actually a good person and who actually loves her husband, not just marrying him for what his name is and being on the lookout for another guy who might be something more.
Two seasons ago, Stan took a nasty hit from a guy during the game. Knocked him down on the ice and he didn't get up and the game came to a halt. The two teams nearly got into a fistfight because of the illegal hit and Stanis had to be carried off the ice on a stretcher and couldn't play for the rest of the season. One of the nurses while he had been staying in the hospital had been Samantha and Stan likes to say – always with a smile – that he fell in love with her the instant she came into her room in her pink scrubs. And Samantha likes to respond with – always with a laugh – that he had been suffering from a concussion at the time and didn't know what he was thinking.
Stan and Samantha were married this past summer and Samantha is in the middle of learning how to cook cuisine of Eastern Europe, with Brett and Henry serving as the taste testers along with Stanis. Some have turned out alright but others, not even Stanis was able to his grimace.
Brett wishes he had gotten it right the first time – the only time – like they had.
Instead, he's stuck with Vanessa, who even after divorcing her seems like a thorn he had can't out from his skin, and a son who's so shy and he has no idea why.
"As good as you've made that offer sound, I'm going to stay home tonight," Brett answers. "I just had a new nanny start today and I want to make sure Henry's adjusted to her alright."
Stanis looks amused at that for some reason. "A new nanny? Is she pretty?"
Brett just smirks and shakes his head and with another squirt of water, he skates off. He's not going to think of Emily or how, yeah. She's very pretty. Beautiful even. But she's young and his son's nanny and he doesn't know anything about her other than Henry likes her and she's good with him and he doesn't want to know anything else. He doesn't need to. She's the nanny. He doesn't need her to be anything else.
After Coach S blows the final whistle and scrimmages end for the day, Brett takes a long shower in the locker room, letting the hot water nearly scald his skin and turn it pink. When he comes out again to get dressed, most of the guys are still there, talking and joking around and talking about their plans for the evening. And he laughs at some of the jokes but he gets himself dressed quickly and leaves even faster, grabbing his gym bag and heading out for his car.
Of course, though, since he's in a hurry to get home, traffic heading into the city sucks and it takes him longer to get home than he ever would have liked. His cell phone only shows a few missed calls – three from Grant, talking about what, Brett doesn't even know because he had tuned his agent out as soon as he heard it was him, and the fourth is from his brother-in-law, asking if he could come by that weekend to discuss a party they were planning for his and Jenna's anniversary.
"Evening, Mr. Simon," the man at the front desk greets and Brett hardly gives him a head nod on his hurried way to the elevator.
He tells himself that not hearing from Emily all day is a good thing. He tells himself this as the elevator climbs to the fifth floor and he fumbles with his keys, jamming the one for the front door into the lock. When he enters the apartment, there are several things he notes almost immediately.
One. He can hear Henry laughing. The kid doesn't laugh enough – not even when it's just the two of them and Brett doesn't compare – he tries not to – but he thinks of his nieces and nephews and how they had laughed at everything at Henry's age. But tonight, he walks into the apartment and his son is laughing. Happily laughing.
Two. The air smells like food. Like chicken and some sort of vegetable and something beneath that. Something sweet.
Three. The apartment looks warm. It feels warm, too, and he figures that Emily had turned the heat up a couple of notches but it looks warm. Like there are different lights in here or something – even though Brett knows that doesn't make any sense. It takes him another second to realize that it's because different lights are on. The lamps on either side of the couch in the living room and the light over the sink and that's it. No other lights are turned on and the few that are on give the room a glow.
"Oh, almost!" He hears Emily laugh. "Want to try again?"
They haven't even heard that he's come home and he quiets his steps, wanting to see what they're doing while in action without alerting them to his presence.
They are sitting on the floor, a collection of picture books and game surrounding them. And they are currently in the middle of playing Barrel of Monkeys, Henry eagerly shaking the plastic container, his entire body shaking as he does, making Emily laugh. And she sounds so damn happy when she laughs, Brett looks at her face. She looks happy too – her entire face lit up, looking like it's glowing somehow.
He tries not to watch her but he finds it difficult. He thinks of how Vanessa used to laugh. She had been a beautiful woman and yet, whenever she laughed, it never made her seem even more beautiful or completely open and free like Emily looks right now. Whenever Vanessa had laughed, Brett always got the feeling that perhaps she was laughing at something at his expense.
Henry turns the barrel over and the plastic monkeys spill on the carpet and he then stands up, carefully picking up one monkey, trying to pick all of the monkeys up, and his tongue pokes out of his mouth in concentration.
"You're getting so close," Emily tells him even with half of the monkeys still on the carpet, unable to be picked up with the others.
Brett can see the look of determination on his son's face as Henry plops down on the carpet once more and scoops all of the monkeys up, putting them back into the barrel for another shake and try.
"Hi," Brett finally announces himself and both Emily and Henry's heads turn towards him instantly.
Henry bursts into a grin and then scrambles up, hurrying over to him, and with a smile, Brett drops his gym bag on the floor and scoops his son up into his arms. Emily gets to her feet as well and Brett looks to her.
"Everything okay?" He asks.
She gives a small smile and nods her head. "We had a great day. It didn't rain like it was expected so I took Henry to a farmer's market nearby. I hope you don't mind."
Brett shakes his head. "Nah. Good he wasn't cooped up all day."
"And I don't know what time you would get back from practice but I made dinner and Henry and I made you cookies, too," she continues.
"Yeah?" Brett looks to Henry with a smile and Henry smiles shyly at him in return before putting his arms around his neck and hugging him.
"Nothing fancy. It's just this breadcrumb coated chicken I make and fresh green beans," Emily said and Brett nearly tells her that she hasn't been hired to cook for him but he stops himself because the air really does smell good and his stomach lets out a little growl before he can stop it.
Brett clears his throat and bends down, returning Henry to his feet. "Wanted to show you something. I was going to talk to you about it this morning but…" he trails off. He doesn't know why he didn't. Maybe he just doesn't know how because he's never even mentioned it to her yet and she probably won't be expecting this.
He heads down the hallway, Henry walking beside him, and Emily's steps are silent but he knows she's following. He stops at the door across the hall from Henry's and reaching into the dark room, he flips on the switch, turning on the stark overhead light. Clara has moved all of her things out and now there's just the bed, dresser with the mirror, and a desk.
"I don't know if the agency told you… I was looking for a live-in nanny. Since I'm out of town so much for games and can't take Henry with me…" Brett trails off and he wonders why he can't just say what he wants to. There's no reason why he should be struggling with finding the right words. This is about Henry and what Henry needs and he shouldn't care about making the nanny nervous or uncomfortable.
He turns his head to look at Emily. He has taken a step into the bedroom and Emily has stepped into the room as well, her eyes looking around, and when she gets a view from the window, she can't help but walk towards it. Brett admits that it's a nice view. One of the park below. He wonders what her view is from her friend's apartment because her friend doesn't exactly have a shabby address either.
Emily then turns around, looking at him. "Can I have my friend help me?"
"Yeah, of course. I figured you'd need help moving," Brett nods. "This alright?" He then asks because even though she's just the nanny, he doesn't want her to be miserable. He can't have a miserable person taking care of Henry.
But Emily smiles then and like her laugh, he can't help but stare at her. He can't remember the last time he saw a smile on a girl that was so genuine looking. He is used to seeing smiles on girls' faces that are all suggestive and flirtatious but Emily's smile is pure and pretty and innocent.
"It's perfect," she says and even though he tells himself he doesn't care – as long as she's not miserable – hearing her answer, Brett can't help but feel relieved.
"Haley…" Emily begins to say as she hears her best friend sniffle one more time.
"I'm fine. I'm. Fine," Haley assures her with a wave of her hand.
"You know I'm literally ten minutes away," Emily reminds her.
"I know, I know. I just… I'm being so selfish," Haley then says as she continues emptying the dresser drawers, folding Emily's clothes and packing them away in the suitcase. "I mean, you can't live with me forever. I know that."
Emily almost wants to smile. She feels like Haley is being slightly ridiculous but she won't dare tell her that. Haley is the whole reason why she moved to this city in the first place and suggested she go down to the nanny agency and now, she's gotten herself a really great job with a really great kid.
Her first day with Henry today had gone perfect. She couldn't have asked for it to be any better. After feeding him breakfast, she and Henry went into his room and she knows that three year olds are starting to express their independence – usually wanting to choose their own clothes – and Henry may be a shy child, but he's still a child and Emily watched with a smile as he chose a pair of his jeans and a Knights hooded sweatshirt and Emily wonders if he owns any clothes that aren't official NHL brand gear.
After getting dressed and helping him brush his teeth and trying to get his curly hair a bit more tamed, they went into the living room and sat on the floor and Emily proceeded to show him how to play Candy Land – which led to them playing three games and she smiled every time he laughed. He still wasn't talking but he was laughing and for the first day, that was more than good enough for Emily.
And even though Brett said to stay inside today, the sky was overcast but rain was no longer predicted, and she decided to take Henry outside. She decided to make Henry a home-cooked meal, not sure what his and Brett's eating habits usually were, and then she got the idea popped into her mind to bake cookies, too. Which Henry had absolutely loved. He stood on a stool at the kitchen counter and helped her mix the chocolate chips into the cookie batter and he had been smiling and laughing.
Still not talking though. She knows he can talk. She's heard him talk to her but he seemed to prefer to go through his entire day without uttering a word.
Emily had read about something like this in one of her child development books in college and she wonders if that's what Henry has and if Brett has heard about it. Selective mutism. The longer she spent with him, the more she was growing certain of it. But she's going to keep it to herself – for now. Maybe Brett already knows. Maybe Brett has already taken Henry to a child therapist about it. Emily has only been his nanny for a day and she doesn't want to step on anyone's toes.
"This is a good thing, Hales," Emily tells her as she finishes packing away all her books in the same suitcase she had brought them in. "I'm going to go off and do my own thing and live my own life and you'll get to have your apartment back and Dan can come over whenever he wants and you don't have to worry about a roommate."
"Oh, who cares about Dan?" Haley sniffles again. "He's just a boy. You're my best friend."
Emily suppresses a sigh. She loves Haley. Absolutely adores her. But sometimes, Haley can be just a touch needy. And Emily gets it. Haley may be surrounded by dozens of people every day but very few of them actually know her and Haley likes having Emily nearby because the two are as close as best friends can be and Emily has known her far longer than anyone around Haley at the moment.
"I'll be right across the park, Haley," Emily says, coming to sit beside her on the bed.
"I know," Haley says. "And I know I'm being so annoying right now."
"You said it, not me," Emily smiles and Haley laughs before playfully elbowing her.
Haley exhales a deep breath. "This is good for you. For me, too. Being on my own, trying to make it, and you on your own, trying to make it. Emily and Haley, two separate individuals. Not Emily and Haley, together."
Emily nods her head in agreement.
"And besides, you get to live with a hot professional athlete and I'm not going to get in the way of that," Haley adds with a teasing smile.
For some reason, Emily immediately feels her cheeks warm. "It's not like that," she shakes her head.
Yes, Brett is good looking. Ridiculously good looking. Google Images does not do the man justice and she had been so taken aback when she had met him in person for the first time because men who look like him don't exist. They just don't. And even though they clearly do, they do not get with girls like her. She's the nanny. Not the model or actress. His ex-wife, no matter how Brett may feel about her now, is stunning in a whole other league that Emily will never be able to enter.
"Not yet," Haley shrugs and then gives her a knowing smile. "But when it does happen, it won't be the first time an employer has fallen in love with the nanny."
Emily laughs at that and then gets up to resume packing so she and Haley will be ready to move her into Brett and Henry's apartment the next morning. "Oh. Me and Brett are falling in love now, are we?"
Haley just shrugs again. "I already told you. Just because he's been knocked around on the ice for most of his life does not mean the man's an idiot."
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